Val Davidson has been a Blazers “mom” for the past six years and this day and the day before were the bittersweet days of the season where she had to say farewell to her billets — Collin Shirley, Erik Miller and Nolan Kneen. Team captain Shirley had been staying in their home for the past four hockey seasons and now that he is 20 years old, he’s no longer eligible to play in the WHL. Admitting that is was a “tough day,” Val was happy to explain why she and her husband, Les, open their home to Blazers players year after year.
“It makes for a busy house. And it’s just fun having them around. Quite a contrast in the summer when they’re not here.”
The Davidsons moved to Kamloops two decades ago from Edmonton. With no children of their own and a big rambling house in Valleyview, Val recalls that she had heard about the billeting program on the radio. Already hockey fans and season ticket holders, they decided it might be an interesting thing to do.
“The first two [billets] were two 17-year-olds that had never been away from home before. It was a learning experience for them and a learning experience for us.” Not having kids of their own besides their furbaby pug, Conky, Val said, “I had nothing to compare it to, but they are all great kids and its just a great learning experience. And you meet all the parents and they come to visit too.” Val estimates that they have offered their home up to at least a dozen players over the years. They started out with two players and have had as many as four at one time.
Her obligations as a Blazers “mom” include making sure they are fed and watered, have a bed to sleep in and a place to call home while they’re here. She does their laundry and says most of them have their own vehicles so there’s no need to drive them around. The Blazers do compensate the billeting families to offset the cost of food and the like and provide season tickets but Val says its not something you do for the money.
They typically meet the boys’ families and the Blazers also organize an Alumni golf tournament each summer which gives everyone an opportunity to get together again. Some of the players stay in touch and send her the odd text to say hello. Most of the Davidsons’ billets have gone on to play at the university level.
“You do [get close] to them and their families. Just be there for them and make it a home. We sit down for dinner at night and since we have several staying here at a time they are home a fair bit when they’re not busy.”
The nest is empty again til September but the boys will be back — for Davidson’s seventh season as a Blazers ‘mom.’