A Cougars player praises the billet program
By Mike Miazga
Daily Herald correspondent
St. Louis native Adam Ryffel said the two years he played with the Chicago Cougars junior hockey team were made a lot easier by being part of its billet program.
"It's a lot bigger part of the experience than most people think," said Ryffel of living with a host family during his time in the Chicago area. "Being away from home can be tough. Sometimes you miss the whole family environment."
The 20-year-old Ryffel played with the Cougars for two years and played at the junior level for four years. He will continue his hockey career collegiately at Adrian College in Adrian, Michigan.
"The billets I had for two years up in Chicago were great," said Ryffel. "I would come home after practice and there was a home-cooked meal for you. Their son was like a brother to me. I would help him with his school work and we would hang out. The family was involved in hockey as well so that gave us something to connect to and it made the experience all that much better."
Ryffel, who went to Mehlville High School in St. Louis, said being with a host family eliminated a lot of unknowns while being away from home.
"If you are put up in a team dorm or something similar you have a lot more things to worry about like who is cooking dinner that night," he said. "If you had an intense day in practice and everybody is dead tired, now you have to go spend money to go out to eat. You also have to worry about things such as taking care of dorms and paying rents. With a billet family, all that extra support is there. It takes a lot of the edge off. You know you are coming home to a cooked meal. They were more than supportive of me and came to all the home games they could be at. The program helps hockey players be more successful."
Ryffel is one of the most successful players to come through the Cougars program. He played in 82 regular-season games (third in team history), scored 83 points (fifth all-time), had 30 goals (fourth all-time) to go with 23 assists (12th all-time).
"It's hard to find another guy who cares more and puts more into the team than Adam," Cougars coach Brad Stoffers said in a news release announcing Ryffel's college commitment earlier this year. "Over his two years in Chicago he really matured as a person and has been one of our favorite players to coach because of how much he cares about the team and his teammates."