By Tim Morris
The unsung heroes of junior hockey are the families who host the players. After all, the youngsters in their late teens and early 20’s, most leaving home for the first time, need a place to live, a home where they are well taken care of and made to feel comfortable.
These team hosts, or billet families, have helped the Ottawa Junior Senators maintain a high standard of excellence in the Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL) providing the players with a friendly, family environment.
Stephanie Scott joined the team hosts three years ago and is sure glad she did. For the past two years, Scott and her son Aiden, have welcomed Junior Senators center Vincent Velocci.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” she recalled. “It’s been an amazing experience. I’ve been very lucky, Vincent has been great, the best I couldn’t ask for a better kid.”
Scott has known Juniors Senators General Manager and Head Coach Martin Dagenais for 14 years. They play on the same softball team.
“Marty and I are good friends,” noted Scott. “We talked about it (billeting) before. I thought it was a good idea but, I wasn’t sure.”
The timing became right three years ago.
“I waited until my son was older,” she noted. “It was nice to have someone else in the house for him to respect. Aiden loves the sport. “He loves playing it with his friends and loves going to the games and wearing the Junior Senators gear. He and Vincent have bonded.”
As for Velocci, he can’t say enough good things about the Scott family.
“Over the past two years, I’ve had an overwhelmingly positive experience with Stephanie. Both her and Aiden go above and beyond to make me feel at home. From coming out to as many games as she can to cooking whatever pregame meal I want, I feel Stephanie has supported me during my entire time in Ottawa. I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better billet family.”
For Scott, however, her job is more than giving Velocci a roof over his head and meals.
“It’s to see that he is well taken care of and provide a safe place so that his family doesn’t have to worry about him,” she explained.
This has led Scott to become close with Velocci’s family in turn..
“I’ve built a relationship with his family,” Scott explained. “I spoke on the phone with them before Vincent came here. We’ve become like an extended family. “I visited them in Toronto last year.”
Scott is a big hockey fan herself.
“I love hockey, I’ve played the game,” she said, adding that she is still active playing in women’s leagues.
Scott and her son had often gone to Ottawa’s home games. Now, they have even more of a rooting interest with the Junior Senators 5-10 center in the lineup. She also sits in the section with the other billet families and they all have built their own relationships.
“I get to see everyone (billet families) and I’ve gotten to know the players,” she noted. “They are all very appreciative, very polite, awesome kids.”
The Junior Senators will return to Ottawa in mid-August for what they hope is a full CCHL season. Scott and her son are looking forward to welcoming Velocci to their home for a third season.