Before long, up to 25 members of the Glacier Nationals tier 3 hockey team will be arriving in Havre, ready to start the team’s first season on the Hi-Line.
The players will be mostly college-age students and some high school seniors.
Part of their life in Havre will include taking part in Nationals’ community service projects, ranging from working with the Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line to taking part in the Festival Days parade.
The goal is to involve players in community life from the very start, said Butch and Jo Kowalka, owners of the team.
So far, the Havre community has been very receptive to having the team in town, he said. They are relocating from Whitefish.
“It is a hockey town, and people are anxious to see them play,” Kowalka said.
This led Kowalka to believe that the team’s billet program will be popular.
Under the program, players will live with area families. Players will eat, sleep, work and have fun with host families.
It’s not a big money-maker for the families, he said. They get paid $350 per month.
But he said it should be a tremendous experience for the players and the families.
“I talked to one woman whose husband died last year,” Butch Kowalka said. “She likes having someone around the house.”
The players will be available to help out with household chores — from doing shopping to shoveling snow.
He said hockey fans would be good host families, but those unfamiliar with hockey might learn to love the sport.
The team is the lowest level of hockey, he said. All of the players will be in their first year.
They will play teams in Great Falls, Billings, Bozeman, Helena, Cody, Wyo.
If a family in unable to house a player for the entire season — early September to March — they can sign up for part of the season, he said. If they care to, they can go on vacation, and the players will be housed elsewhere until the family returns, he said.
Jo Kowalka, Butch’s wife and Nationals co-owner, said the team has been impressed with the relationships it has already been able to develop with the Havre community, especially the Havre Youth Hockey Association.
The Nationals will play their 22 home games at the Havre Ice Rink, owned by the hockey association. They have signed a three-year deal.
The hockey association and other community groups will benefit from the sale of refreshments at the home games, he said.
“It’s been great working with the association and the Havre community,” she said.
People interested in housing Glacier Nationals team members can:
• Call Butch Kowalka at 406-407-4074
• Call Jo Kowalka at 406-260-2566
• Email firstname.lastname@example.org