Each year new players are drafted, to bring their hockey talents to Sioux Falls. But the average player is 17 to 18 years old, meaning the young men need a place to stay. Here is a look at the families that give the Stampede their winning edge.
"They become a son, they are a part of the family," Jeanne Buchholz said.
The Stampede's roster is made up of players from all over the world. Before they can reach the ice, they need a home in Sioux Falls. The Herd's goal tender Art Brey, is from California, and got traded to Sioux Falls this season from Dubuque.
"Coming here I received a phone call from Head Coach Cary Eades letting me know I would be living with the Buchholz. About 20 minutes later Jeanne called me and wanted to say hello. When I got into town she took me out to dinner and the rest is history," Stampede Goalie Art Brey said.
The Bucholz have been housing Stampede players for 15 years. Not because they didn't have children of their own, but because they wanted to help young players reach their goals.
"We started when our boys were younger. We thought that it would be fun to bring another boy into the house and we loved hockey. So, we brought them in. We knew that it was their dream to further their career, so if we could help them out we wanted to do that," Jeanne Buchholz said.
The housing families are known as the backbone of the United States Hockey League. They give the players a roof over their heads, food, and support on and off the ice.
"It's like the fans. Without the fans we wouldn't have games, we would be playing in front of nobody. Without the housing parents the players wouldn't have anywhere to live, we wouldn't have a family, and we would be really lonely. It's really nice to have people here that care about you and actually want to see you succeed," Brey said.
The players are encouraged to get jobs and work in the community, but when they aren't at work their day is much like any other kid.
"They start work pretty early, definitely before I wake up. I get up around 9:30 or 10:00 a.m. o'clock on a good day. I usually get up, make some breakfast, get to the rink by 12:30 p.m. I get back home around 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. and Jeanne has dinner ready. We sit down to eat, talk for a bit, watch some T.V., and hangout," Brey said.
The connection goes further than just housing during the season. Many families keep in contact well after the hockey player continues on their journey.
"We get to know their families by spending time with them at their homes. We have certainly taken in a lot of their college hockey games, which keeps it fun for us over the years," Mark Buchholz said.
"Of course, I think it is great. Last year I had my first housing parents in Dubuque and I still keep in contact with them. I send them holiday cards and wish them happy birthday, things like that. We will definatly keep in contact," Brey said.
The league is committed to finding families that will support their players and help them further their careers. Since the Stampede joined the USHL in 1999 they have sent hundreds of players to college and currently seven play in the NHL. All thanks to the families that open their doors and cheer them on.
"It's a family atmosphere and I think that is the whole point of the situation, welcoming young player into the community, the household, and making them feel at home. Making them feel like they are home and they have done a great job at that," Brey said.
For more information on Housing Families click: Stampede Housing Families