The Maple Grove Energy, a Minnesota Junior Hockey League team that plays right here at the Maple Grove Community Center, just wrapped up its second season.
The team consists of former high school hockey players ages 18-20 from states across the country working to improve their skills in the USA Hockey Tier III league. They have aspirations of moving on to play small-college hockey.
Because a large portion of the players come from other towns and states, the team works hard to find housing for all of the guys with a local family. One St. Michael family finds this to be the perfect opportunity to have another person in their home.
“We love kids and we considered hosting a foreign exchange student or doing this,” Penny Lee said. “But we love hockey so this was great.”
Lee and her family decided to become a host family for the team after seeing a flyer at an Edina hockey rink mentioning a new expansion team in Maple Grove. Now, nearly two years later, Lee is in her second year with the Energy team and has hosted three players in the St. Michael home she shares with her husband, 14-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter. Their current player Austin, is an 18-year-old player from Missouri.
Between her daughter’s dance schedule, her son’s bantam hockey schedule for St. Michael-Albertville and of course, the Maple Grove Energy, Lee’s social life is filled with activity. “We go to a lot of hockey games,” she said. “We go to every Energy game we can as long as it doesn’t conflict with our son’s schedule.”
Lee is driven to continue to host players for a number of reasons. “If my son was two or three states away, I would want a compassionate caring family to be available to him,” she said. “And, you form a deep connection when you host another child in your home. It is nice because you are able to make a difference in a young man’s life.”
Lee says that her family has had a great experience as a host family. “We open up the house to the team when we can and let the player become a part of the family,” Lee’s family even celebrated Thanksgiving this year with a player from the 2012-2013 season and the family will continue hosting players in the foreseeable future.
Host families, called billet families, offer a private bedroom to each player and provide meals from late August through March. Players work or go to school and typically have their own car. Billet families receive a $350 stipend per month to cover expenses.
And, according to the Maple Grove Energy host family page on their website, “the billet families play a vital role in the ultimate success of our athletes.” These families have the unique opportunity to provide strong role models, authority figures and a supportive environment that will make a significant difference in the lives of the young men who have left their families to pursue their dreams. The benefits derived by players from their billet families, seems immeasurable.
The Maple Grove Energy team has finished their season, but look for the 2013-2014 schedule soon. Games are played at the Maple Grove Community Center, 12951 Weaver Lake Rd. For more information, call 651.246.3425 or visit energyhockey.com.
The Maple Grove Energy is now taking host family applications for the 2013-2014 hockey season, specifically from families in or near Maple Grove. For more information about hosting a player, contact Natalie Liesmaki at 763.464.6082 or firstname.lastname@example.org.