Neepawa Natives - Team billet program known across Canada and U.S.


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Team Billet Co-ordinator Mary Ellen Clark (fourth from left) and a few of her many “boys” and their parents.

Mary Ellen Clark

Neepawa Natives Junior ‘A’ Hockey team Billet Coordinator

The Neepawa Natives Junior ‘A’ Hockey Association has a very well organized billet program. Players homes are visited and we ensure it is a good family home. If possible we billet two players together if the billet family has the available accommodations.

The billet families are provided with a nutritional booklet to assist with meal planning. We have a billet meeting early in the fall with billets, players and coaching staff so everyone hears the same information regarding household expectations and team rules. We become a very tight hockey family.

I have billeted for thirteen years and have made a home away from home for over 70 players. A very high percentage of the players stay in touch with their billet families many years later as they move on to receive their education and play college hockey. These young men become our hockey sons.

This became very evident to all billets following the Humboldt Broncos bus accident. Billet families take very good care of your sons. As billet coordinator I don’t just look after my three players but all 23 on the team. Player alumni fondly recall their time in Neepawa and come “home” to visit from all across Canada and the States.

Thank you for allowing us to share in your sons hockey journey as he strives to reach the next level.


Head coach Dustin Howden

Dustin Howden is entering his fifth season with the Neepawa Natives organization and his third season as Head Coach.

During his time with the club, the team has steadily made progress year after year. Going from a team that accumulated just 28 points (PTS) in the 2015/2016 MJHL regular season to his first year as head coach in 2016/2017, when the team had a 48PT season to last year’s 54PTS. The 2016/2017 season was a memorable one for Howden, as the team made the playoffs for the first time in six years.

Howden’s goal as a coach is to develop the players both physically and mentally and to build a successful team atmosphere which will result in a positive experience for everyone involved. It is a competitive game, it is expected that players and staff work a little harder each day to achieve both team and personal goals. The recent team records over the past few years have shown improvement and working with Byron Billett moving players on to the next level has continued at a high level.

Heading into the 2018/2019 season, Howden and the rest of the organization are very excited to get to work with the players again and get back into the playoffs. They are also striving to promote the players onto the next level of hockey and education.


Season tickets

Season tickets typically are available at an Early Bird price. For 2018-19 the Early Bird price is $229 until August 15, 2018.


Player benefits

In addition to a very positive community and hockey experience, Neepawa Natives Junior “A” Hockey Club provides players with sticks, equipment, billeting in a family home, team jackets, tracksuits, travel in a modern highway coach bus, road meals and lodging when required on road trips.


Travel fees brought in for 2018-19

The Neepawa Natives Junior “A” Hockey Club has been working at providing an excellent hockey experience for 30 years. The team is very grateful for the support we have received from fans, the community, sponsors, staff, players and parents over the years.

For the past 10 years, the team has been community owned. Costs have out-run income by an average of $18,000 per year. Consequently, the team has accumulated debt and the board has decided this can’t continue to increase.

The 2018-19 season is going to see more cost increases as we will be chartering a bus as we have had to retire our old bus. Over the years, we have owned a number of buses and they all wear out and need to be replaced eventually. The team wants to provide the best possible, safe transportation so we are chartering a bus going forward. It will be a safe, more comfortable bus but it will cost more.

After much agonizing and consideration, the Board of Directors has voted to implement a travel fee of $267 per month per player (for six months) to help cover bus costs, road meals and motel accommodation when it is needed.

Team President Ken Waddell said, “We realize this will impact players and families but many Canadian junior teams charge a fee and the board feels a transportation fee is the fairest to all concerned.”

The Neepawa Natives annual budget is approximately $400,000 and it will inevitably go up as costs increase each year. The board and staff continue to work hard to control costs and increase revenue from all available sources and we ask for the support of fans, the community, sponsors, players and parents as we look ahead to many more years of Junior A hockey in Neepawa.