Hockey is a sport like none other. Played on the ice with full contact, games can be intense with passing and shooting, penalties and interferences. Watching a live game is something everyone should experience. Fortunately, Whatcom County residents don’t have to travel far to enjoy an exciting game of ice hockey. We’ve got our own junior hockey team right here in Bellingham.
The Bellingham Blazers junior ice hockey team formed in 2012. “Five years ago, my dad and I were approached by Derek Donald — the commissioner of what was then the Northern Pacific Hockey League — to put a team in Bellingham,” says Blazers Head Coach, Mark Collins. They took the idea to Whatcom Sports and Recreation, and the Blazers were born.
In their first two seasons, the Bellingham Blazers won the Cascade Cup and qualified for national championships. Those early successes have propelled the team forward. Going into their 5th season this year, the Blazers are joining the Western States Hockey League. Mark explains, “We’re moving forward into a new level of play and an increased level of competition.”
As a junior hockey league team, the Blazers are made up of players between the ages of 16 and 20. These young men come from all over the US, Canada, and sometimes Europe to live and play hockey in Bellingham. This tradition creates a unique need for host families, known in the hockey world as “billets.” According to the Bellingham Blazers website, “billets are families who invite junior players into their homes to be a part of their family during the hockey season.”
Hosting players is about more than providing housing. It can be beneficial for players and host families alike. “We’re always looking for new families,” Mark says. “I think for young kids, it’s a neat concept to have an older ‘brother’ who’s a hockey player, and to generate some interest for hockey in the community.” Billet families receive a monthly stipend and free tickets to the Blazers games in exchange for hosting. Those interested in hosting a Blazers player can contact Charleen Wallace at 360-676-1919 x102, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Catch the Bellingham Blazers during home games at Bellingham Sportsplex. They play Friday nights, Saturday nights, and Sundays between September and March. For game dates, see the Blazers Schedule.