Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Billets important to Fighting Falcons

The Port Huron Fighting Falcons begin their training camp with off-ice workouts this week, as the players arrived to town last weekend.

While the majority of the players came in from other parts of the state, a few had much longer trips to make.

Goalie Peter Megariotis, for example, drove in all the way from Anaheim Hills, Calif., a trek of over 2,300 miles. Megariotis will call Port Huron home for the next several months after celebrating his 20th birthday in California last week.

Bill and Pam Watt have invited Megariotis into their home to give him a safe family environment from now until the end of the 2011-12 season. The Watts are one of more than a dozen local families to open their homes to Fighting Falcons players this season.

Host families, or billet families, are an instrumental part of any junior hockey organization. With some players living so far from home, their host family gives them a home away from home, providing a bedroom, healthy meals and a safe, family environment.

This season, some players will be spending significant time away from home for the first time, and the support and nurturing provided by host families make that process easier on the 16 to 20-year-old young men.

With the ever-rising cost of gas, even some players from just outside of the Blue Water Area will live in billet homes this season, staying closer to McMorran Arena. With Michigan’s unpredictable winters, a shorter drive to the rink for practice or games is ideal.

Just as Fighting Falcons players vary in age and experience, host families come in all shapes and sizes. Many have younger children involved with hockey, allowing their hosted player to serve as a mentor and role model. Others may not have children of their own, but enjoy the game and wish to support the team, like Jason and Jenny Houck, who will host defenseman Ryan Murray, just weeks after their wedding in late July.

Gary and Tina Temple will host forward Logan Lemirande once again after allowing him to be a part of their family last season. Gary volunteers as an off-ice official for the Fighting Falcons, tracking statistics, submitting lineups and working as a goal judge.

Ian and Kelly Shaw will host a player for the first time, as forward Alex Globke will move in this week. The Shaws have been huge supporters of sports and athletics in the Blue Water Area for years, and Shaw Chiropractic is once again one of the Fighting Falcons’ biggest sponsors.

Sean Gammage, who is one of just three players from last season’s opening night roster to return to the Fighting Falcons, will also return to host parents Rick and Vicki Vargo. The Vargos are huge supporters of the team, serving as president and treasurer of the Fighting Falcons Booster Club.

The booster club will help the team host a meet and greet cook out at Glacier Pointe after practice next Saturday, August 27 at 1 p.m. The event is open to the public, and will give fans the opportunity to see one of the team’s first practices of the season. Hot dogs, hamburgers and drinks will be free to those in attendance immediately following practice.

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