Bruin billets swing between hope and heartache

Of the 15 or so speakers who grabbed the open microphone at last week’s ‘Save the Bruins’ rally at Prospera Centre, Lynne Goodwin was the one who seemed to be hit the hardest by this whole mess.

Others were angry.

Justifiably.

She was sad.

Her eyes glistened and she choked up once or twice as she talked about what she will miss the most if the Bruins leave.

Goodwin has always billeted the older players because she lives on Chilliwack Mountain, removed from the high schools.

The last two years, she’s billeted Brandon Manning.

“We’ve known all season that Brandon wasn’t coming back, and we’ve prepared ourselves to say goodbye to him at the end of the year,” Goodwin explained. “You know it’s a temporary relationship you’re in,  but the thing that’s the constant is the Bruins and knowing you’re going to get a new guy next year. It’s exciting to build relationships. They confide in you and they trust you. We’ve grown to love that and now it’s being ripped away along with the team.”

Goodwin billeted Craig Lineker in the first year, and still talks frequently with the soon-to-be University of British Columbia grad.

“He’s one of our best friends and we see him all the time,” she said. “He’s like one of our kids. Like family, and that’s a relationship we got through the Bruins.”

Goodwin billeted Oscar Moller in her second year, describing the happy-go-lucky Swede as a ray of sunshine.

“Oscar was the sweetest, most open and loving kid you could ever hope to meet,” she said. “He is devastated about this. He thinks it sucks and he’s been very outspoken about it. I think the outpouring from the kids who’ve played here has been amazing.”

Goodwin billeted Matt Meropoulis for two years, and he’s one of several ex-Bruins who’ve posted their thoughts on the Keep the Bruins in Chilliwack Facebook page.

“Hey everyone, I just wanted to say that the time I spent in Chilliwack was some of the best times I have had playing hockey,” Meropoulis wrote. “I couldn’t have asked for better fan support, and I think it’s wrong what the WHL is doing to such a great city. I hope things work out for the best and I am supporting you all the way.”

Rod Wharram had the good fortune of billeting Mark Santorelli in 2007-08, the year he won the Western Hockey League scoring title.

“I remember he won the scoring title in the last game of the season, and he called me 20 minutes after the game ended in Vancouver and he said to me, ‘We did it,’” Wharram recalled. “A moment like that is when you know you’re not doing it for the $300 a month. Mark hasn’t lived with us for three years, but I still talk to him frequently. I know I’ll be at his wedding one day, and that’s just the bond that you form with these kids.”

Beyond the billeting, Wharram has also formed countless friendships sitting in the stands at Prospera Centre.

From the volunteers who prowl the arena on game nights to the familar faces in the seats, everyone has become like one big extended family.

“I’ve been a season ticket holder for four years and every year I’ve been offered the opportunity to switch my seats,” he said. “But I’ve always declined because of the comraderie you form with the 20 or 30 people sitting immediately around you.”

As a businessman (owner of West Karma Ltd.), Wharram respects the right of the Bruins ownership group to sell their team.

What offends him is the way this drama has played out.

“The way this has been railroaded through, the politics that seem to be running behind the scenes are really unfortunate,” he said. “That’s what stings the most as a person who really loves this team.”

Wharram has considered the notion that the Prince George Cougars or some other relocated team might be playing here next year. If it isn’t the Bruins, Wharram’s  first preference is still the WHL.

“We’ve watched a kid like Jeff Einhorn come in here and make the team as a walk-on, and here he is graduating as a 20-year-old,” he said. “You’re watching these kids grow up and that’s what junior hockey is about.”

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