GENEVA, ILLINOIS - From driving their kids to the ice rink on early practice mornings, to giving up their nights to cheer them on at games, the journey to the USHL was a long one for the hockey moms. Now watching their sons leave home before most parents are ready to say goodbye, Chicago Steel hockey moms from across the world continue to support their kids' dreams from near and afar.
Chicago left wing Greg Printz, a Providence College commit from Fairfax, Va., credits his mom to helping his hockey career get to this point.
"Without my mom I wouldn't be able to do anything that I've done today," Printz said. "She's always been there for me, and always sacrificed herself so that I could do the things I wanted to do, I just can't thank her enough for that."
Leaving home for college is difficult enough for most young adults, but moving in with an entirely new family is a unique situation for the elite teenage athletes of the USHL. These players leave their hometowns in pursuit of their dreams and their mothers are a big part of helping them with the transition.
Penn State commit Tyler Gratton traveled all the way from Pottstown, Pa. He said having his mom help him with the move made it that much easier for him, and his billet (housing) mom helped the transition by being so supportive.
"My mom made the transition to coming over and living with my billet family and billet mom really easy," Gratton said. "My billet mom always comes out to support my games. Plus, she makes awesome food."
The billet mothers invite these young men into their homes and treat them as if they are their own sons to help them achieve their dreams. And they're always making noise in the stands for the Steel.
Steel teammates Mitch Lewandowski, from Clarkston, Mich., and Matt Kiersted, from Elk River, Minn., live in the same billet house and recognize that their billet mom, Michelle Sparrow, plays an important role in helping them reach their dreams.
"She is always supporting us, whether it's coming to the games, or pizza night every Tuesday," said Lewandowski. "We know that when we go home we always have something to look forward to."
The Chicago Steel will be celebrating moms this Friday, Oct. 28, by showing how much the Steel, the USHL and all the hockey players out there appreciate all that they do. The Steel's Momtober game against the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. at Fox Valley Ice Arena. A pre-game Hockey 101 session for moms will take place at 6:00 p.m. (space is limited). Additionally, several mom-focused in-game activities will take place, including a hockey mom relay race. For tickets or more information, call 855-51-STEEL, stop by the Box Office at Fox Valley Ice Arena or visit ChicagoSteelHockeyTeam.com.