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.
Our family never intended on billeting two WHL hockey players at the same time. It was a ‘fortunate’ series of events. Kolten Olynek, who had lived with us during the 2015-16 season, was released by the Raiders in October only to be brought back to Prince Albert after a short stint with the Saskatoon Blades. We were given another player, Cavin Leth, when 'Oly' first left. When we heard he was coming back to the team, we never considered asking him to live anywhere else.
Kolten and Cavin are complete opposites. Kolten, unless he is on the ice, is quiet and calm. Cavin is boisterous, a jokester. Kolten’s truck is a mess, while Cavin’s is pristine. Both of them, however, have very messy rooms.
Cavin was acquired from the Seattle Thunderbirds where he too was a fan favorite. He helped lead the Thunderbirds to a successful playoff run last season and his name even inspired a hashtag. Fans chiding broadcasters for mispronouncing his name used #itscavin to correct them.
It’s not Calvin. It’s not Gavin; It’s Cavin.
Cavin is a small-town boy from Taber, Alta. who grew up on a turkey farm. He’s the type of kid who offers to help clear the table and is always sure to say ‘thank you’ after a meal, even when I serve him overcooked chicken. He eats a lot of chicken. His pre-game consists of one or two chicken breasts and a plate of pasta with either marinara or alfredo sauce. He always drinks water out of a shaker cup with an orange lid. I offered to clean it once and he said no. Cavin takes his time at the supper table. In fact, he eats at a snail’s pace. It means we all sit at the table a little longer than we’re used to, but it has also presented the opportunity for us to talk more as a family.
Cavin fell into the role of big brother easily. Often times, you’ll hear him and my 5-year-old chirping each other; one from downstairs, the other one yelling from upstairs. Once I overheard Cavin telling my 8-year-old that swearing ‘isn’t cool.’ When our youngest refuses to eat his meal, Cavin encourages him to go ‘bite-for-bite’ in a healthy bit of dinner time competition. He probably gets along with the kids so well, because he’s really young at heart. I’ve hauled bags full of candy wrappers from his room; I envy his metabolism.
Cavin sets an example on the ice too. He was named an Assistant Captain shortly after joining the Raiders. I think the fans enjoy his grit and determination. He isn’t afraid to throw his weight around, but it's usually followed by that signature toothless grin - a rite of passage he obtained during his time in the WHL.
“I actually scored my first goal in the WHL against Prince Albert,” Cavin said. “So, it was kinda cool when I got traded here. I also had my first fight in the WHL during that Prince Albert game.”
Now as a veteran on the ice, Cavin has earned the respect of his teammates by holding himself and them to a higher standard.
“It’s not about calling each other out… it’s about holding each other accountable. If Tim [Vanstone] is having a bad game… I can say, ‘Timmy..you gotta be better.’ You have to be the best for your team,” he explained.
Cavin really embraced what it meant to be a leader. He came from a successful big city team to a young struggling team in the midst of a rebuilding year. Still, he wanted to be here.
“I knew I could use my experience to show the younger guys what its like to play in this league… what it takes to win and what its like to be a Raider,” he said.
Both Cavin and Kolten have told me the Art Hauser Centre is one of the best rinks to play in throughout the league.
“Even when we’re not doing well on the ice, the fans support us,” Cavin said.
Kolten said people in Prince Albert welcomed him with open arms. I’ve seen families wait outside of the dressing room just to tell him he played a good game, and he is so appreciative of that.
As the season winds down, both Kolten and Cavin say they’re just trying to enjoy what time they have left in the WHL. Cavin will spend a month travelling India and both boys are considering offers from Universities across the country.
“Hockey is a sport," Kolten said, "but if I can work hard enough to keep playing every day… there is nothing better and nothing more you can ask for.”
Personally, I am going to miss these boys. My boys. I’ll miss seeing them on the couch chilling with our kids or having a Nerf gun battle. I’ll miss watching them play ridiculous games like trying to throw chocolate-covered almonds into each other’s mouths at the same time. I’ll miss hearing Cavin sing every song off the radio and I’ll miss watching Kolten shaking his head while Cavin sings. I’ll miss chatting with them after their games while we make a plate of nachos. I know they’ll miss my famous smoothies in the morning. Most of all, I’ll miss watching these fantastic hockey players hit the ice as Prince Albert Raiders to play a sport they love.
I’m so glad we chose to billet and I feel fortunate to have played a role in Kolten and Cavin’s lives. They are and always will be part of my family by choice.
On Twitter: @teenamonteleone
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