The Summerland Steam are on the hunt for billet families and volunteers for the 2015-16 season.
Steam co-owner Gregg Wilson said the organization has had great billets in the past as well as strong community support and would love to see that continue.
With the possibility of having more non-locals playing for the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League squad, it will require more families to step up and welcome players into their home. On the volunteer side, Wilson said they have a base of 30, but need 50 in total. Some of the positions open include security for game days, dealing with tickets at the door and selling 50/50 tickets.
“We’re a very community-minded team,” said Wilson. “Yes, we’re privately owned, but we’re not in it to make a fortune. We’re just there to survive. We just want our community to have a team.”
Volunteers and billet families receive season tickets. Billett families also receive $500 to feed the players.
Wilson said the hard part about being in the Okanagan is that they compete with the Penticton Vees and Okanagan Hockey Acadmey for billet families. For that reason they try to get as many local families as possible. Wilson said that having John DePourcq as coach helps.
“He’s such a good coach and a good guy. He’s a two-time coach of the year in our league,” said Wilson. “Kids want to play here. He’s such a good hockey guy. Such a good personality. It makes it easy for people to relate to our team when you have quality people like John.”
When it comes to the on-ice product, Wilson and DePourcq, both former Penticton Knights, are excited about what the Steam could be. It’s the first season that they haven’t had to go out hard to recruit.
“Kids want to come here now. We’re kind of on the map,” said Wilson. “They know we’re a stable organization.”
“Summerland is a good option for the kids. We have done better in the playoffs each year,” said DePourcq, who is in his fourth year coaching the Steam. “It’s a great spot for kids to come and play.”
Among the players expected to join the Steam is Penticton’s Michael MacLean as well as Matthew Huber, brother of former Steam goalie Brett Huber. The younger Huber is also a goalie. Matthew Monk, younger brother of former BCHLer Josh Monk, will also play.
With 12 rookies on the squad last year, the Steam could potentially have 80 per cent returnees, depending on how many make junior A teams.
The organization is also looking to improve its attendance. After averaging under 200 last season, Wilson wants to see it reach 300. Having fewer home games when the Vees play is hoped to help that.
There will be one change to the organization off the ice eventually. Wilson said that his partner, co-owner Tim Kielty, who is also the Steam’s president, is looking to sell his share for family reasons. Wilson would like to see a community-minded person buy Kielty’s share.
Anyone interested in buying the other half of the Steam, or being a volunteer or billet is asked to call 250-462-0905. The Steam will be holding its training camp Aug.21-23.