Both the Charlottetown Islanders and the Summerside Western Capitals are hoping to find billet families for new players.
Pat McIver, general manager of the Summerside Western Capitals, says it has been "a struggle" to find families willing to host players in their homes this year.
"With COVID and everything that is going on, you know, there are a lot of people who are just nervous to bring in kids from away," he said.
Most of the players on the Capitals are Island players — but about 25 per cent of them come from outside the province, McIver said. Players coming from outside the Atlantic bubble will quarantine before going to a billet home.
"We're just taking the same precautions we would do in any other year — making sure it is a good clean home and a good family environment," he said.
Families are expected to follow public health guidelines — but, he said, they aren't expected to disinfect everything daily.
He said the main responsibility of a billet family is to feed players and provide a place to sleep. A weekly stipend is offered to assist families with the additional costs of hosting a player.
Players in the QJMHL range in age from 16 to 20.
Right now, five families have signed up — but McIver said the team could use at least four more.
"We have in the past, you know, rented an apartment and whatnot — it's not ideal."
McIver said typically the team looks for families in the Summerside area — but there have been billet families sign up from Charlottetown and other areas in past years.
The Western Capitals isn't the only team on P.E.I. struggling to attract billet families for the upcoming hockey season.
The Charlottetown Islanders are also hoping more families will step up to host some of their QMJHL players.
Troy MacKenzie is the billet coordinator with the Charlottetown Islanders. He said recruitment of billet families is happening at a slower rate this year because of COVID-19.
"We're trying to limit the exposure any of the players will have which will limit the exposure any of the billet families have as well," he said.
Temperatures are checked when players leave the billet home, enter the rink and exit the rink. MacKenzie said players and billet families also have to fill out a questionnaire through an online app on how they are feeling daily.
"Billet families just give them a loving home. We take care of all the transportation and getting them to and from the rink or to any appointments," he said.
MacKenzie said he is looking for four more families around the Charlottetown area to sign up, but he said extra families are welcome in case of an emergency.
He said long-lasting relationships can be built by billeting. For example Matt Welsh, who just graduated from the team last year, was with the same family for five years.
"I saw he was on the Island this summer visiting that same family," he said.
Small stipends are offered to families who take in an Islanders' player MacKenzie said.
Soon out of isolation
MacKenzie said all the players on the Islanders team are self-isolating — they will be finished their 14-day quarantine on Sunday.
"We'll start moving billets ... probably on Monday," he said. "We're not traveling outside the Atlantic bubble. So the whole season is directed inside of it."
MacKenzie said players will attend school, but won't attend Island high schools — distance learning will happen from a room at the rink.
He said if families want to sign up to host a hockey player they can do so at the Charlottetown Islanders website.
Practice starts on Monday and MacKenzie is hoping to find billet families before the season starts in October.
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