Batavia family linked to Olympic hockey player ‘just so proud’ of what he’s achieved – Chicago Tribune

Despite a heartbreaking loss to Slovakia early Wednesday that ended the United States men’s hockey team’s run to the Olympics, memories of the team’s performance in Beijing will not only linger with the team, but also with a family in Batavia closely linked to one of the players.

Since 2015, Holli Bain and her husband, Scott, have been part of the host families who welcome players from the Geneva-based Chicago Steel hockey team. The Steels are part of the US Hockey League, which consists of 16 junior teams made up of players between the ages of 16 and 21.

Nine players with Steel ties are members of various national teams at the Beijing Olympics.

Les Bains hosted Olympian Nick Abruzzese, of Slate Hill, New York, during his time with the Steel. Abruzzese is making an impression on the international scene as well as at Harvard University, where he is the captain of the hockey team. He scored Team USA’s first goal in Wednesday’s game against Slovakia.

(Matt Slocum/AP)

Holli Bain, 52, said being a ticket family was something she and her husband chose to do long before Abruzzese and others became part of the Bain family.

“We started in foster care years ago because our two boys are hockey players, and Scott and I talked about it before we even started (being a foster parent),” a- she declared. “We said that if our children ever reach an elite level where they have to leave home and live with a family, we would want them to come to a home like ours where they will be safe and cared for. “

Holli said that during a visit to the Steel factory, the team made an announcement about finding foster families and her 12-year-old son “was so excited and went to get an application.”

“The year before Scott and I talked about it, but we lived too far from the rink, but now they’re here in our backyard and we said let’s go,” she said. “We were one of the first families to sign up.”

Chicago Steel media relations manager Dan Vatch said foster families “play a vital role in the lives of these players, leading to the team success the Steels have enjoyed as organization”.

Vatch reflected on the importance of having a former local athlete making such an impact after playing halfway around the world.

“It’s clear that the impact the Chicago Steel have had on the hockey world over the past few seasons, and seeing that come to fruition on the biggest Olympic stage in the world is definitely something special that we have a great time with. here in Geneva. ,” he said.

Bain, who calls Abruzzo “Nicky,” said the hockey player is now part of the family.

“Nicky stayed with us in 2017 and 2018, and during his sophomore year at Harvard, when the Ivy League was not playing in 2021, Nick came back and lived with us in mid-January and stayed with us until ’till Steel won the Clark Cup,” she said. “He lived here because Nick continued to train with the Steel.”

She says Abruzzese remains one of her favorites from her seven years of hosting Steel players, although she knows better than to admit.

“I know we’re not supposed to have favorites, but he’s definitely one of them,” she said. “He’s the most humble guy we’ve had at home.

“Just to see his passion for the game and how he wants to keep improving – there were nights when he was sitting in front of the TV watching a hockey game and watching something else on his phone, like maybe training, and then being on his computer breaking everything because he wanted to improve. He was humble, he was kind and a real big brother to the boys.

During the Olympics, Bain says she tried to leave Abruzzese alone because he needed to focus on the games.

“Our contact has been limited because of the time change and I don’t want to bother him because he’s here,” she said. “He’s here to do a job right now. We talk all year round, especially on his birthday, and I went to Harvard to see him play a few games in his freshman year. We talk, we text, we FaceTime. I speak regularly to his grandmother and his mother. We are in constant contact.

She made sure to watch her games at the Olympics, no matter what time they aired.

“We watch the games and last Sunday I was up at 7 a.m. watching the game,” Bain said earlier this week. “I watched every game and stayed up one night for one that was 11:00 p.m. I follow Team USA on Instagram. The last conversation I had with Nick was when he was at Los Angeles getting ready to fly to Beijing – because of the time change and all, I just didn’t text her.

She said she recently posted a “phenomenal photo of him on Instagram taking a picture.”

“I’m so proud of him,” she said. “He’s my favorite Olympian.”

David Sharos is a freelance journalist for The Beacon-News.

Catherine J. Martinez