BROOKS, ALTA. -- For any junior hockey season to go ahead — never mind one during a pandemic — billet families are an essential part of making it happen.

For one Brooks Bandits forward, he’s been fortunate to build a relationship with a family over three seasons, which actually began before he joined the team.

“I have a billet mom and billet dad, Adam and Jaime McIntosh, no kids, just a nice little puppy,” said Taylor Makar.

The couple has been billeting Bandit players for eight seasons.

“He’s basically family for us.” said Jaime Mcintosh “We’ve had a really amazing experience being billet parents, it’s been super rewarding, we’ve had such great kids. It’s wonderful to see them grow and mature.”

Another player the couple billeted for parts of three seasons and are now watching grow is Taylor’s older brother, Cale.

He currently plays for the Colorado Avalanche and last season won the NHL's rookie of the year award.

“We don’t let him think he’s a superstar. He just still little Cale” said Adam. “Cale and Taylor are very, very different people. So it was interesting. Raised well very, mature kids.”

As the Makar brothers’ careers are blossoming, the bond between the Makar and McIntosh families is also continuing to grow.

“They’ll let me in their house. They’re family, we’ll have them over to our house. They’re the greatest I could ever ask for,” said Taylor.

Just how close they've grown was evident when Cale played his first NHL game in Calgary, said the boys' father, Gary Makar.

“Game 5 against the Flames, we were able to bring them up and Cale got them tickets," he said.  

Jamie and Adam say they know the day will come when Taylor will leave their home.

Ahead for him is a collegiate career at the University of Massachusetts Amherst where his brother also played collegiate hockey. However, the distance has never broken the McIntosh’s bond with past billet players.

“My husband has gone down to watch our boys play hockey down in the states. It will just continue, we keep in touch with the parents," said Jaime.

"We just have really great relationships with them and we expect that to continue. We expect to go to their weddings and do all that stuff too."

For everything the couple has done for his boys, Gary says he understands how vital billet families are too junior hockey.

“It a huge core of Canadian junior hockey and the billets, they should all get medals," he said. The Bandits open the regular season on Nov. 13 against the Camrose Kodiaks.