The Meili family had to say a tough goodbye to defenceman Jesse Ivanovic this week as he was traded from the Estevan Bruins to the La Ronge Ice Wolves on January 8. 

The Meilis are a billet family who house Bruins players from other locations during their stints in Estevan.

While each family has a unique experience with billeting, the Meili family has found it extremely rewarding.  

“Our son is very in love with hockey in every aspect so we wanted that experience for him,” said Kandyce Meile. “We also have two girls with disabilities, and it’s always been our mission to involve them in the community and the community in them as much as we could.” 

Meili said the players quickly turn from strangers to family.

“They take part in the day-to-day such as attending school, playing mini sticks, attending performances, and eating supper with the family.” 

There is no guarantee of how long a player is going to stay, which is what makes the billet coordinator a crucial piece of the puzzle.

The Meili family has welcomed a variety of players in their home, and sometimes more than one at a time.

Ivanovic, an 18-year-old from Kelowna, was with them since August, and bonded with the family.

“You have to trust in the culture of the team, management of the players, and doing what’s best for the team," said Meili.

Whether the player is at the end of their career, or they are traded to another team, it is hard to say goodbye. 

Meili explained that a trade affects the whole family, and leads to anger, sadness, and then acceptance. She added that all goodbyes are not sad, as they usually mark the start of a new adventure for the player.

“It’s part of hockey and it is inevitable. They always leave.” 

The player's outlook also has a major impact on how the family reacts when it comes time to say goodbye, explained Miele. 

“Having a positive outlook on going to a new team and potentially having more opportunity to play and show his talent help us feel a bit better about him going.”  

The Bruins host the Ice Wolves Wednesday night at 7 p.m., and again on Saturday.

The SJHL's trade deadline is 4 p.m. Wednesday.