Dyson Stevenson, Lane Scheidl, Brady Reagan, Jake Leschyshyn and Sam Steel are connected by more than just wearing a Regina Pats jersey during their junior hockey career, they also share the same billet family.
Darcy Fleishchhaker and his wife Laura have been opening their homes to junior hockey players for eight years.
Fleishchhaker said they first became involved when one of their friends asked them if they would billet for their nephew, Chandler Stephenson.
“We requested him, which doesn’t always happen that way when you request somebody.”
But they ended up with Stevenson and couldn’t have been happier with the result.
“He became a huge part of our family and still is to this day.”
From then on, the Fleishchhakers have had a Pat call their place home for every hockey season.
“They were welcoming right off the bat and you could tell they were just really good people and over the years you develop a relationship with him and it’s awesome,” Pats captain Steel said.
For many players, their chance at the WHL is the first time they have had to leave their home and parents to play hockey.
Leschyshyn said the Fleishchhakers have helped provide him with everything he needs to succeed.
“Giving me a good set-up there, they always seem to have good food around the house, it’s not a whole lot of stuff that goes on but it’s just the little things that make a big difference.”
Away from the rink, Fleishchhaker describes the two players as just being “typical young men.”
“They like to come home, they like to relax, they play their video games, they’re a lot of fun, Sam and Jake compliment one and other for sure,” he said. “We’re very proud to have them.”
While Fleishchhaker can help provide them with off-ice support, he doesn’t try to get too involved with their on-ice careers.
“We don’t try to get too involved with their careers, I always say they do have fathers for that,” Darcy joked. “However, we do help them out. They are away from home, these young guys leave as early as 16-years-old and they don’t go back until the summer and if all goes well their career will continue to carry them forward that way.”
But when it comes to game day, you can find them in the stands cheering on their “billet sons.”
“(Laura) carries her cowbell religiously during playoffs and everybody knows who she is, she’s the billet mom with the cowbell.”
It’s not just Steel and Leschyshyn who the Fleishchhakers have become close with. Over the years they have developed a growing bond between the different families of the players.
Ultimately junior hockey players can only stay in one place for so long which means goodbyes are inevitable.
“Even for the summer … When the boys are leaving, (Laura) won’t say goodbye because that way they can’t leave. So she kind of hangs out in the kitchen and she has to play that little bit of a game with them so they don’t leave.”
Just because the players no longer don the Regina jersey doesn’t mean their relationship comes to an end.
Fleishchhaker said Stevenson continues to stop by and stay for a few days during the summer.
“We’ve never really been able to ever get rid of him, he’s always been a huge part of our family.”
He said they travel with Stevenson to Saskatoon — where the hockey player is from — and other various places in the province.
They also don’t expect to stop opening their home up anytime soon.
“We love it so much, I don’t see us stopping anytime soon, I think when we do we will just be too old to do it and we’re still quite young yet so we’ve got a lot of years ahead of us.”