WICHITA FALLS, Texas (TNN) - While the NHL season has ended, hockey is just beginning in Wichita Falls as the city welcomes its new NAHL team, the Wichita Falls Warriors.
Most of the Warriors' players arrived in town on Friday and have moved in with their billet families. These billet families include local residents in Wichita Falls who may house a number of players during their season.
The players range from the ages of sixteen to about twenty and come from all around the world. For many residents like John and Mary Ferguson, by the end of the season, these players are simply an extension of the family.
“They become part of your family, and it really is a lot of fun. It’s very rewarding,” said Mary.
The Fergusons have spent the last ten years of their lives as a billet family, hosting over fifty young men with hopes of taking their hockey talents to the college level.
“We didn’t know hockey in the beginning, had no idea what the rules were and now we’re avid fans so, it’s one fun sport,” said John.
After the Ferguson’s two daughters grew up and left home, Mary said that the empty nest syndrome set in. They eventually made the jump to hosting foreign exchange students and then, hockey hopefuls, including those on the newly formed Wichita Falls Warriors.
“It’s nice to come home to people that are taking care of you and are interested in what you’re doing,” said Warriors forward Jackson Wozniak. “It just makes being away from home way easier and you know, it’s easier to play hockey.”
For Wozniak and defenseman Jack Blanchett, both of whom are staying with the Ferguson’s, they hope to form a close relationship with the Fergusons like the many players before them.
“We’ve gone to their graduations, we’ve gone to their weddings,” said Mary. “Just this weekend I got a photo of one of the young man’s baptism of his baby. So, you really connect with these guys and I tell them all when they leave, I’ll see you when I dance at your wedding.”
“If you bring in a child, a kid to play hockey, you build a relationship that you never expect,” said Blanchett.