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Hudson-area families needed to host international hockey players

Union Leader Correspondent

August 06. 2013 8:16PM

For the next seven months or so, dozens of area residents will open their doors to some promising athletes who dream of becoming the next Bobby Orr or Wayne Gretzky.

Each summer, the Hudson-based Northern Cyclones Hockey Club recruits up-and-coming hockey players from all over the United States, Canada and Europe.

“These players show great potential to play at the college level and beyond, but they don’t live within reasonable driving distance of an arena,” said hockey mom Denise Dolloff, who has hosted 17 players at her Windham home over the past eight years.

As of this week, 30 host families are still needed for this year’s crop of players, with some travelling from as far away as Russia and Sweden.

During the past hockey season, Dolloff, the development director at the Greater Salem Boys and Girls Club, and her husband, Wes, the co-owner of the Cyclones, hosted five players in their home. Two will be returning to Windham in a couple weeks.

Players range in age from 16 to 20 and typically are able to complete their high school educations, take college classes and hold part-time jobs while pursuing their dreams of a professional hockey career.

“Our players have proven to be great role models for younger children in the family, as they demonstrate hard work and determination to achieve tough goals,” Dolloff said.

Hosting a hockey player, or several, can be a very rewarding experience that continues long after the season ends, Wes Dolloff said.

“Basically, we provide a bedroom, a desk and two meals per day,” he said. “They become part of your extended family.

Participating families receive a $300 monthly housing stipend for each player to help cover costs, with players to arrive in southern New Hampshire later this month.

Most will return home for a couple weeks over the holidays, then return to the area to play hockey until the season ends in late March.

Program officials encourage hosting two players at a time, which allows the pair to form a buddy system in an unfamiliar area, while riding to practices together.

For the Dolloffs, hosting hockey players has been about building lifelong relationships.

“They’ve all stayed in touch with us, each and every one,” Wes Dolloff said. “Some of them come back to visit. One now goes to college in the area and joins us for Thanksgiving dinner.”

A fortunate few have since embarked on promising athletic careers in the minor leagues, he added.

Schenectady, N.Y., native Zach Popp stayed with the Dolloffs two seasons ago while playing right wing for the Cyclones.

Popp, 21, is now entering his sophomore year at Plattsburg State College in New York, where he’s a majoring in business and playing on the college hockey team.

“It was an awesome experience,” Popp said of his time in Windham. “Such a great family atmosphere.

Two years since his season in New Hampshire, Popp said his former host parents remain in his thoughts.

“We still talk and text all the time,” he said.

Cassidy April, 22, a native of San Diego, also stayed with the Dolloffs when he played defense for the Cyclones last season.

Now a sophomore at the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine, he considers the Dolloffs to be “basically my East Coast parents.”

“They’re just phenomenal people,” April said of his host parents. “They’d truly do anything for you.”

April said he’s remained a regular fixture in the Dolloff home, where he usually visits during school vacations.

“Sometimes it’s too expensive to fly home, but this is the next best thing,” he said. “Their kids have become like brothers to me.”

Those interested in learning more about hosting a hockey player this season may contact Monica Dufresne at

Hockey Hudson