NewsLocal News


Providing a home away from home: the IceRays billet family program

IceRays players are hosted by local families for the duration of their season
IceRays billet family.jpg
Posted at 3:10 PM, Oct 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-19 19:14:19-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Sachanowiczes are a billet family for the Corpus Christi IceRays. The family hosts three players this season aged 20 or younger.

“I don’t think junior hockey is possible without billets,” said defenseman Stefan Dobrich. “They just make it easier on all the players, versus putting 25 guys in dorms. They’re able to move away from home, like me, I’m thousands of miles away from home, and we’re like family now..”

Dobrich, fellow defenseman Brady Carlock, and forward Nathan Butler all live with the Ed and Jessica Sachanowicz, their three kids, and four dogs.

“My kids are student athletes, so we thought why not bring some athletes in, show them how they balance academics, the scheduling of playing sports, and also give them the opportunity to have a big brother,” Ed Sachanowicz said.

This is the fourth season the Sachanowicz family has hosted IceRays players. Dobrich, Carlock, and Butler are from Windsor, Ontario, Flint, Michigan, and Dallas, respectively, but the Sachanowiczs have hosted players from across the world.

“I explain it as kind of a foreign-exchange program at schools,” Ed Sachanowicz said.

While the players live under his roof, Sachanowicz treats them like family.

“I’m like an uncle to them, give them some guidance, we have some good laughs, we watch some hockey together,” he said. “We show them the family love, they have responsibilities just like our kids do.”

“[We do] normal things, like when the garbage is full, we just kind of take it outside put it in the trash. Sometimes we’re stacking it up a bit too high and Ed’s not too happy about it, no one wants to take it out,” Dobrich laughed.

The players feel the family love, too. The Sachanowicz family goes to every home IceRays game, and in turn, the players support their billet brother and sisters at their sporting events.

“It’s awesome to have that support, just knowing that they’re watching, that they obviously care about us, they’re coming to all our games,” Dobrich said. “With our billet sisters and brother coming to our games, we want to support them and go watch them. I’m sure it means a lot to them knowing we’re there.”

But it’s not just a roof over their head and home-cooked meals the players get staying with a family. They get advice and have a support system.

“Being able to have someone to talk to, having another family, a home away from home, I think it helps a lot. Especially with the mental stability,” Butler said.

“They’re literally my home away from home. The support here has just been awesome,” said Carlock. “They made it really easy to move in, and this is home.”

“It’s honestly way better than, even after a tough loss, coming home and having people around you, versus being in a dorm,” Dobrich said, “It’s nice to come home to a family lifestyle, and just have everyone around you, and just take your mind off hockey for a bit.”

However, the connection doesn’t last just the time they’re in the house. The Sachanowicz still keep in touch with all the players who have stayed with them, sending them care packages, and even visiting some.

“We still keep in touch with all of them, some of them are still playing in the North American Hockey League, or some of them have moved on to playing semi-pro, or moved on to go to schools,” Ed Sachanowicz said.

“They’re family, and we’re going to stay in touch for the rest of our lives. It really means a lot, and without billet families, junior hockey wouldn’t be a thing,” Carlock said.

The IceRays are looking for more billet families to host players. For more information on what being a billet family entails, and how to apply, click here.