Home away from home: CHS hockey players discuss the common tradition of billeting and the extra edge it provides for college recruiting and competition

Satvik Kandru

Many sports like football or basketball have a path from club and high school teams to college and pro leagues. Ice hockey works a little differently. If an Ice Hockey player wants to pursue their dream at a higher level, they can choose to go to a hockey academy team, or a program they believe gives them an opportunity to compete at the next level. More often than not, this team will be in another region or even another country, so the team will arrange for each player to live, or “billet,” with a local family. Former CHS student Will Pippen and junior Matt Lapel have experienced this for a part of their lives. Pippen is currently enrolled at The Hill Academy which is in the province of Ontario, Canada. He finished his freshman year at CHS and then made the decision to billet in Canada.

“I played on a lot of travel teams growing up and they really increased my competitive drive and they got me better. Ultimately, I got good enough to get the opportunity to play in Canada,” Pippen said.

Pippen is currently spending a year in Ontario and will come back to Carmel for his junior year. He said the experience of billeting is unlike any other and that it has been a very cool experience for him.
David Mooney, Hill Academy Assistant Coach, said that The Hill Academy has been a strong environment for the athletes that have attended.

“In my opinion, the Hill Academy is a great environment to help student athletes develop. Academics, team training and strength/conditioning are all done under one umbrella, which is not only convenient but allows coaches and teachers to effectively communicate and collaborate,” Mooney said. “For the prep hockey players it is a very rigorous schedule, they play 60 to 70 games (most of which are on the road), and practice three to four times a week. For players that take advantage of the ice time and are committed to getting better every day, the sky is the limit. This is proven by the several players graduated from the program that now play pro and college hockey,” he said.

Pippen said he attends school regularly every day, his classes are spread out during the day with practice and conditioning taking place in between classes. The ultimate factor in his decision to go to the academy was their reputed rigor of physical training.

“I would say the main reason I go to the Hill Academy is because how I was thinking about how much training and development I would be getting at the Hill (Academy). Also, the Hill (Academy), is very well known for its lacrosse, which I will be playing this spring. In a way, I’m killing two birds with one stone,” Pippen said.

Pippen also said The Hill Academy is not only a school for him to develop as a hockey player, but they value academics just as much, which helps him as a student athlete.

“I think being here at The Hill, skating and working out, has helped my game tremendously. The school and the hockey aspect have opened up many recruiting options for me, which is great,” Pippen said.

Lapel, on the other hand, has experienced billeting in a short term setting rather than a long term setting like Pippen.
Lapel was part of billet families in Colorado and Ontario while playing for a development team. He has experienced billeting on multiple levels and been a part of many different teams while doing so.

“When I have billeted, I have only done it for a little bit at a time; for example, I billeted in Colorado for two weeks. I only do it in the summer because it helps me brush up my skills better for when I compete back here in Indiana,” Lapel said.

Lapel said that he was considered billeting long term as Pippen does, but said he decided not to because of his social and academic aspirations.

“I considered it for a little bit, but I have so much family and friends here that I couldn’t just give it away, even though a billeting opportunity is as good as it gets. I also didn’t know how far I could go in hockey, so I just wanted to focus more on school here (at CHS) than billet and play on another team,” Lapel said.

Lapel has played for the Carmel Ice Hounds for the past three years and said that he is very confident he will play for the team again during his senior year as opposed to playing elsewhere through billeting.

“I understand that billeting can get you better looks (for college), but since I have been a part of a billet team and been a part of Carmel, I have realized that I would rather stay here for all of high school than play on a team outside of here. For some other people it is different because they have different values, but for me I’d rather stay here long term,” Lapel said.

Pippen said that sometimes he realizes some of the down sides of billeting.

“Being in Canada for so long, I always miss the people back home and get homesick a lot of the time, but I knew that being away for a full school year would do that to me, it is just part of the process for me to get to that next level,” Pippen said.

Lapel and Pippen both said they believe billeting for a short or long period of time helps them develop better as players and gives them a greater chance at playing on the collegiate level, while at the same giving them a good experience as well.
Lapel and Pippen are both pursuing their dream of an NCAA scholarship, but on different paths to success.

“I feel that being at The Hill, I will always be around guys that know me well as a player and want to help me the best I can be, we have a great chemistry between us, but nevertheless I still miss everybody back home,” Pippen said.