In the last week, teams and leagues have been forced to address a number of COVID scares due in part to the system of billeting that the level of play has come to depend on. The age-old thought that "boys will be boys" is now starting to threaten the 2020-21 hockey season as it is just now sputtering to get started.
Not unlike the college crowd facing similar issues across the country, junior hockey players are a close-knit group that tend to attract a lot of attention from the opposite sex. It happens and is a major component to the junior hockey lifestyle.
In 2020, sometimes the risks are not worth the reward. Teams from across the continent are facing COVID positive test result at a disproportionate rate.
Billeting is one of the time-honored traditions of junior hockey. But the game has evolved to a point where this practice is beginning to see some cracks, especially with elevated concerns regarding COVID protocols and responses.
Many are arguing that living within a structured bubble type of atmosphere is the way for players to learn responsibility under the watchful eyes of the coaching staff. Players enjoy being together and teams are learning that dormitory type of housing eliminates many of hockey's growing security concerns.
Others claim that the billet tradition strengthens relationships and helps players stay in line. Teenage boys are teenage boys, they are going to test boundaries, want to hang out with their teammates, and often feel like an alien inside somebody else's home. Before COVID, billet families of established teams were trying to hold on to the tradition, but many programs are being forced to look at going into a different direction.
There's a really good reason that militaries the world over house young adults in controlled environments. For literally hundreds of years there has been a higher ranking leader within earshot of the young men (and women) experiencing their first time away from home.
In trying times like these, maybe it's time to think outside the box and take a hint from Uncle Sam and the United States Marine Corps.
Author: Stephen Heisler
Stephen Heisler has spent a lifetime in the game of hockey. Stephen is also working with individual teams, coaches, and players as a director with Victorious Hockey Company. Stephen, his wife Deysi, and four children reside in Orlando, Florida.
* Disclaimer: This site may contain advice, opinions and statements from various authors and information providers. Views expressed in this article reflect the personal opinion of the author, Stephen Heisler, and not necessarily the views of JuniorHockey.com. JuniorHockey.com does not represent or endorse the accuracy or reliability of any advice, opinion, statement or other info provided in the article, or from any other member of this site.