esso billets feature

Home sweet second home

Billet families have turned the Gold Wings into Weyburn’s team

Wendy Graves
April 17, 2016

Becky Tuchscherer never intended things to go for so long.

When she was approached by Jackie Williams, one of the Weyburn Gold Wings’ founders, prior to the 2006-07 season about billeting a player, Tuchscherer declined. It wasn’t a good fit she thought, her job as a school social worker taking her away from home a couple of times a week.

Williams had a solution, though.

“She said, how about you take two, then they have company,” says Tuchscherer, laughing. No sooner had she agreed to the arrangement then she found herself wondering what she got herself into.

Ten years later Tuchscherer is still billeting Gold Wings players. Five years ago she became the team’s manager, and in that role she’s taken an active part in finding others like herself, people willing to open their doors to a young female hockey player living away from home for the first time.

Living in Weyburn has always been part and parcel of playing with the Gold Wings. (“Billeting is just how we roll,” says Tuchscherer.) Time that would be spent on the road to practice is instead used doing homework. More team-building and volunteer opportunities are possible with everyone close by.

“I think it makes our team stronger in the community,” says Tuchscherer. “We get a lot of support because people see the players out with their billet families, running billet brothers and sisters to school or dance.”

The community, in turn, has taken ownership of the team.

The team provides $400 a month to help cover food and room and board, as well as season tickets to home games and an open invitation to hop on the Gold Wings’ bus for away games.

Many families wish to be involved beyond that, though. Some sell 50/50 tickets, others run the score clock. The team takes part in an annual United Way fundraising talent show and billet families sit in the audience taking picture and videos to send back to the players’ families.

“It’s really cool,” says Tuchscherer. “They become not only a part of the Gold Wing family but a part of that player’s family as well.”

That first year, Alyssa Kaczmar and Rianne Watson lived with Tuchscherer. Kaczar now lives in Regina but is a police officer in Weyburn and sometimes stays with Tuchscherer during the week. Three years ago Watson, a registered nurse, returned to Weyburn to do service for a bursary. She contacted her former billet about getting involved with the team and has been an assistant coach ever since.

This year Brooke Mead and Jensen Hammer live with Tuchscherer.

Mead is from Regina and could’ve tried out for the Rebels but liked the idea of living away from home for hockey.

“You just feel welcomed, like you grew up here,” she says. “You have a relationship with your billet family and your friends’ billet families. You have more than one family here.”

This is Hammer’s third year living with Tuchscherer. She’s from Moose Jaw but always had her eye on playing for Weyburn. It was the bond between the girls, she says. She’s since found that that sense of belonging extends far beyond the 20-player roster.

Tucscherer never envisioned being a part of hockey in any position. She comes from a family of figure skaters, and after hanging up her skates earned her coaching certification.

“I have no hockey background,” she says, laughing. “To this day I still can’t say I understand the game 100 per cent. I do my best and I cheer, but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, which is why I think I love it, because I’m not focused on the game. Yes, I want our girls to win, but at the end of the day I just want them to be happy and have fun out there.”

Two years ago everyone was enjoying themselves: the team won the 2014 Esso Cup.

“I look back at those pictures and it brings tears to my eyes, just thinking how exciting it was and how excited my girls were,” says Tuchscherer. “And to have Rianne there, that was pretty cool.”

After initially hesitating about billeting players a decade ago, Tucscherer can’t imagine her home without them now. The two months of the year when she has her place to herself are almost eerily quiet. She admits to missing the commotion, even with the players getting louder over the years, she laughs.

Two years ago she was awoken by a noise outside her bedroom. She opened the door to find Hammer and then-teammate Madison Colbow crawling along the floor, attempting to make a quiet break for the backyard and a late-night dip in the hot tub. Nice try, Tuchscherer told them; back to bed.

“Some days people say ‘why do you keep billeting?’” she says. “I’m a social worker and most days I do a lot of not-fun things; I see a lot of situations that aren’t the best. I come home and it doesn’t matter what day it is, but the girls always have some funny story to share from practice or school. You hear those stories and it makes you laugh, it makes you smile, and it’s like ‘this is what I need.’ That’s what’s kept me in it for 10 years.”

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

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