Teena Monteleone is CKBI's morning show host and paNOW's director of information programming. She is the mom of two young boys, who "adopted" two more when she began billeting during the 2015-16 Raider season.
My family decided to billet Prince Albert Raiders as a way to give back to the community. We are hockey enthusiasts with two young boys and had seen the positive interactions our friends had experienced as billets. Travis and Melanie Willie, for example, welcomed Raiders Captain Tim Vanstone into their home for his entire WHL career. They celebrated his successes and supported him through his struggles over five years. He is, and always will be, a part of their family and a mentor to their children.
Enter Kolten Olynek; a forward the Raiders had acquired from the Spokane Chiefs. He was 19-years-old and had a full beard. The first thing I did was crack a joke about how he could call me “Mom.” To that, he stared, offered a sympathetic laugh and carried on his conversation with my husband. Having been in billet homes before, Kolten was used to adapting to new surroundings and new people, but he was quiet…really quiet. So, you can imagine our surprise when we discovered he doesn’t stop flapping his gums the entire time he’s on the ice. He chirps other players, he chirps referees and he’s very vocal with his teammates.
“On the ice, I have to play bigger because I am not a big guy,” he explained. “One way for me to do that is to agitate other people and get under their skin. I’m not gonna run over everyone at 5’7”…so I have to use my mouth.”
I can only imagine what he says to the other players and referees. I asked him once and he said, with a smirk, “Oh…usually, I just ask them how their day is going, and if they want to go for coffee after the game.”
He may not be the biggest guy, but Kolten can eat. As long as I have been his billet Mom, he has never strayed from the same pre-game routine. He naps in the afternoon until about 3:30 p.m. He showers, puts on his suit and then comes upstairs to eat the same meal…every time; a huge plate of white rice with soya sauce and a heaping pile of pasta with marinara sauce. Talk about carb-loading! We offered to cook something – anything – else, but like many superstitious athletes, he’s never waivered. Adding to his superstitions, Kolten is always the last player to leave the ice after warm-up, after each period and after each game. It is sad to think in a few short days, he will be the last player off the ice for the last time in his WHL career.
Kolten quickly became a fan favorite in Prince Albert with his fast-paced play and determination. His leadership on and off the ice garnered him an “A” on his jersey. Like most of the over-agers, Kolten spends much of his downtime volunteering in the community at the SPCA, the long term-care facilities or in schools making various presentations on topics like bullying. He helped coach our son’s novice hockey team and each of those boys looked up to “Coach Oly” with instant admiration. Community service is part of Raiders coach Marc Habscheid’s mandate. He hopes to make great hockey players, but also good people. He lived with us during the off season while he was working at a hockey camp in Prince Albert. Asking him to return the house key is a thought that has never crossed our minds.
“You really realize how much the Raiders mean to this community when you visit the schools,” Kolten told me. “The Raiders are really the biggest ticket in town.”
Sometimes, Kolten spends his time off playing video games or going to movies with his teammates, but a lot of his time is spent with us. He wrestles with our kids and is a good sport when I force him to play board games. My husband introduced Kolten to fishing and helped him lure in a gigantic pike that he caught with his great-grandfather’s lure. They had big plans to mount it but it’s been sitting in my deep freeze for months.
Kolten has weathered quite the career in the WHL. He was drafted by the Lethbridge Hurricanes and traded to Moose Jaw, then Spokane before he landed in Prince Albert. A few months into this current season, he was released by the Raiders, and picked up by his hometown team, the Saskatoon Blades. It was devastating to watch our kids say goodbye to someone they considered their brother, and as a billet parent it was hard to know what to say. Like your own son, you hurt for him. Kolten was hurt, but he never said a bad word about the Raiders organization.
“You can’t control what they want to do. Coaches either want to keep you or they don’t. It is a business,” he said. “If you aren’t doing your job…you’re gone. Even if you are doing your job…you could be gone. It all depends on what the team is looking for.’
Kolten said he didn’t realize how much pressure was on him until he played as a 20-year old. He said everything the over-agers do on the ice is put under a microscope because they’ve been doing it for so long.
“To be a 20-year old in this league is an honor, because there are only three 20-year-olds on each team. So, you’re kinda the ‘cream of the crop’ for the old guys. You’re expected to perform every night and lead by example. We nurture the young guys and show them how to play, which is harder than most people think when you’re worrying about your own game,” he said.
In an unexpected move, the Raiders asked Kolten to re-join the team just weeks after they released him. Needless to say, we were elated but this time, it was different. While he was gone, the Raiders asked us to billet another player, Cavin Leth.
And then there were two…
--Part Two featuring Cavin Leth will be posted tomorrow at 4 p.m.
On Twitter: @teenamonteleone
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