Sandra Baynes

Sandy Baynes (BES ’89, MA ’91) lived at St. Paul’s from 1984-1986, we caught up with her on a recent trip to Ottawa and learned about her experiences billeting hockey players for the Ottawa Junior Senators (OJS) in the CCHL and asked if we could shine the spotlight on her story.

Note: while working on this story, the Ottawa Junior Senators made it all the way to the 2019 National Junior A Championships in Brooks, Alberta where they finished 4th. 

Volunteering can offer unique and exciting opportunities. It is something you can offer to your community and feel good about contributing. It makes the most sense to volunteer in an area of interest. 

I started volunteering in high school or possibly earlier. I was on various committees like the Yearbook, and I recall having coffee duty for night school students to raise money for the Outers Club. In my St. Paul’s days, I volunteered on the social committee.

These days, I volunteer my time at work and in the community. Besides the Recreation Club at work, and a handful of quilting groups (Quilts of Valour, Common Thread Quilt Guild, and the City of Ottawa Museums) I volunteer as a billet mom.

What is a billet mom or billeting? For hockey, it’s inviting an out-of-town hockey player to live at your home for the season. In this case, they are Jr A hockey players, ranging in age from 16 to 20 years old. For some, it’s their first time living away from home.  

I kept seeing ads in the local paper looking for families with an extra room to take in a player or two. While it’s not a money making venture (they don’t pay rent, but contribute to food), I knew I could help out. My grandmother billeted decades ago and two of her boys went on to the NHL.  

These boys play in the CCHL league. This is a path to professional hockey (NHL, Europe, Australia) via an academic route (usually with scholarships) in the United States. Some that I have met aspire to get business or marketing degrees, one player not billeting with me is studying Engineering at Ottawa U.  

I started billeting a little over 4 years ago. You are warned not to get too attached to your billets. Some have been sent to stay with me for short stays during trying outs. Others just get settled only to find out they have been traded to another team usually in another city. To date, I’ve had 12 billets stay with me (11 for hockey and 1 for our semi-pro baseball team).  They are all different. Some have been addicted to Fortnight (one let me try it). Others prefer to play basketball or watch Netflix when they have down time. I’m a Pokemon Go fan, and occasionally a billet might admit to having an old account and come out to do a few raids with me. These boys are kept busy though with practices, games, yoga, dry land training and video review. My commitment is to make sure they have their own room and that they are well fed.    

My billets have come from various US states (New York, New Jersey, California, Ohio, and Arizona) and from Ontario and Quebec.  Some speak English and others, French.  Good thing I have been working on my French for work.  

I like to hang signed pictures of my billets on a billet wall. You realize that the hockey community is small when the California player looks at a picture and identifies a Whitby, Ontario player by name. Then my Ohio player knew the New York player.

I find it very interesting to get to know these boys. Some families have their boys ready to cook occasional meals for themselves and do their own laundry. Others arrive not sure how to make toast. I’m happy to get them up to speed if they are receptive to it. The team gives you a season ticket, so it’s fun to go and cheer these fellows on. When their families can make the games, I usually sit with them.

Last year, towards the end of the season, the Humboldt Broncos bus crash happened. My quilt guild received a call for quilts for the first responders, hospital staff and billet homes. They were hoping for about 200 quilts from across the country. I knew that this was something I could volunteer for.  We were given a colour scheme and a pattern to follow. 

Sandra Baynes is shown standing surrounded by four junior hockey players holding a quilt in Humboldt Broncos team colors

I asked the head coach for permission to ask the boys to sign squares for two quilts, and he agreed right away. The parents, billet families and the media asked to participate and added their names to squares. I sent in a letter with a picture of the quilts being held by some of the OJS players. A man at the practice rink offered to take the photo for us. When he was done, he asked us to wait so that he could take a picture on his phone.  He then said to us, “I want to thank you for doing this for the Broncos.  My nephew was on the bus that night, and thankfully he is ok. I want to send this picture back home to show them others are thinking of you.”

Over 2,000 quilts were received from around the world. A month later, I heard back from a family that received one of my quilts. The letter was moving. Part of the letter said that just when she was missing her billet son the most, the quilt arrived. Seeing all of the signatures of the OJS players she said it was like a big hug - and she could feel the players hopes and dreams similar to that of her billet’s. 

At the time of writing this, I have a goalie staying with me. The billet cat just loves him. When a few of my other billets discovered that I named him after an early billet, they suggested that I get a few more cats so I could name them after them.  

While I don’t have kids of my own, I’m enjoying the experience of young people staying with me. A few have helped with new to me technology or French, and I have shared some of my skills like cooking and sewing. One boy can now use a sewing machine and puts a zipper in like a pro! It keeps you young, feeling like a part of their community, cheering them on.

I'm not sure wow much longer will I keep billeting. Just when I thought I was ready for a break, I had a former billet ask me for breakfast last week on his way home for the off season. He gave me a card as he was leaving. In it was a heartfelt letter thanking me for making his first time away from home a good experience. After that, I think another year is in the cards if the team finds themselves looking for a home for a player or two.

Alumni Spotlight Archive

2019

Steve Patyk ('81)

2018

Alison Gibbs ('88)

2017

James Fraser ('94)

2016

Dana Decent ('13)

Jeff Bell ('90)

Bryan May ('00)

2015

William Nelson ('78)

Frank Mensink ('78)

2014

Victoria Alleyne ('12)

Taya Devlin ('14)

Bill Rosehart ('96, '97, '01)

2013

Barb Dabrowski ('79)

Bill Pristanski ('78)

 

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