Colin and Alysia Loewen have been a billet family for Steinbach Pistons players for eight years.
“We always felt like we could provide a home that we would like our children to be in if they were ever in a situation where they would get billeted elsewhere. We thought we could be that home for somebody else's child,” Colin says.
Nashville Predators' Cole Smith scored his first goal against the L.A. Kings last Saturday. He happens to be a former Piston and the Loewens’ first billet.
To them, seeing Smith’s NHL dreams come true is “surreal.”
“We were at our kids’ hockey game and so that was a game we weren't watching. But I always catch up on the highlights and I always look for that first goal. Russ Dyck, he's the stats guy, he texted me before I even knew that Cole had scored his first goal. That was crazy special,” Colin says, adding that they are now Predators fans.
The Loewens commend Smith’s work ethic. To them, his NHL dreams have been clear since day one.
“I know that was his goal when he lived with us,” Colin says. “He wanted to take it there, and we never underestimated him because he worked like I've never seen anybody else work before,”
Smith and his family’s relationship with the Loewens are special. They keep in touch by exchanging messages and dog pictures.
“One of the unique things with billeting is, and it changes depending on who's in our home, but we develop relationships with not only our billet but often with their families as well. Cole Smith's family has been one family that we have connected with over the years. Our family’s lives have intertwined in that way and have stayed intertwined,”
For the Loewens, they say that billeting is a “family deal” and something that they discuss before the start of the upcoming season. It has been something that they want to do year after year. One fond memory that the Loewens have from Smith’s Pistons days was his relationship with their daughter Tessany.
“I think Tessany was too young when Cole was here to have a lot of memories from that time. But what we remember about it was Cole had a fairly significant injury when he was here. For him, the frustration of not being in the lineup, not being able to practice, not being able to work out as hard as he was used to working out, was a real mental block. It was a difficult time that he went through,” Colin says. “Tessany, our daughter who is now 12, she didn't care whether he was in the lineup or not in the lineup. She didn't care whether he had goals and assists that night, she just wanted to see him when he got home. They played hide and seek, he would make animal noises and she would find him. I feel like there was a bit of a relationship there that was pretty special, at least for us as parents to see,” Colin says.
Alysia adds that “She was thrilled if he would walk through the door and pick her up and flip her upside down because he was the only one that was tall enough, then she could walk on the ceiling.”
Colin says that Smith hasn’t forgotten about his junior hockey years in Steinbach.
“I mean, tribute to the Pistons as well. Cole looks back at those years as being significant for him, not just in our home, but he talks about the development with Paul Dyck, his head coach, and how valuable that was for setting him up for his success later on,”
With files from Carly Koop.