A closet in Parker Fowlds’ Everett home contains a stash of hockey jerseys, each radiating in forest green and white. On the back are the names and numbers of some of the most illustrious Everett Silvertips players from throughout the franchise’s 15-year history: Mueller No. 88, Murray No. 27, Hart No. 70. Perusing the collection is a little like taking a stroll through the franchise history book.
But this is no random collection of jerseys accumulated by a superfan. These are the jerseys of the young men who put their livelihoods in Fowlds’ hands during their time playing in Everett.
Fowlds is Everett’s longest-serving billet, having housed Silvertips players during the season ever since the team began playing in 2003. Over that time he’s become Everett’s billet to the stars, opening his home to some of the best players ever to don Tips jerseys. And with Everett’s training camp beginning this week, Fowlds is about to get back to work.
“It’s exciting for me to do these things,” said the 77-year-old former owner of an Everett office supply store. “It keeps me young.”
“He was awesome,” said Ryan Murray, a current member of the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets who billeted with Fowlds from 2010-13. “He’s a guy who’s easy to relate to, easy to talk to. He really cares about his players. He would have done anything for us and I just respect him so much. I couldn’t imagine having a better billet than him.”
Everett’s teenage players come from across western Canada and the United States, as well as from Europe, and therefore need to be housed while they play for the Tips. Fowlds has been the fixture among Everett’s host families, lodging 15 different players on a full-time basis over the past 15 years, usually two at a time.
Besides Murray, who is Everett’s highest-ever NHL draft pick having been selected second overall in 2012, his wards included Peter Mueller (2005-07), who’s scored the most NHL points of any Tips alumnus, and Carter Hart (2015-18), the only individual ever to win the WHL Goaltender of the Year award three times — they comprise the top three in the Herald’s list of the 15 greatest Silvertips of the franchise’s first 15 seasons. Fowlds has hosted scores of additional Everett players on a temporary basis.
All of which makes him one of the Tips’ unsung heroes.
“He’s a huge asset to the organization,” Tips host family coordinator Janet Hawes said. “He’s been doing this ever since day one and he’s learned how to make teenage boys happy and keep them focused on the hockey so that they perform on the ice and become good young men.”
Housing junior hockey players was never part of the Fowlds’ plan. He’d never been to a hockey game when the Tips rolled into town in 2003, but he attended the first-ever game at what was then called the Everett Events Center, and was immediately hooked. The next day then-Everett assistant coach Jay Varady walked into Fowlds’ store, and their conversation led to Fowlds becoming a billet.
“Jay asked me what I thought of the game and I said it was the fastest game I’d ever seen, but it was too bad I couldn’t be a home host,” Fowlds recalled. “I’m single, and in my Rotary you had to have two people in the house to even put in. But he said that being single didn’t bother them, so I filled out the paperwork and a week later I had a player.”
Billets and players aren’t explicitly allowed to choose one another, but there’s no doubt that Fowlds has become Everett’s billet of choice, in large part because of Fowlds’ enthusiasm for cooking the players quality meals each night. Fowlds himself admits that he “spoils the players rotten.”
Fowlds’ house, which is located a short drive away from the arena, has even become a hub for players who don’t live with him. It’s not unusual for his players to invite teammates over for dinner — Fowlds is thrilled to accommodate — and he’s had as many as 23 players at his house at one time.
“All the billets are great in Everett, and I can’t really speak for other players, but from what I can tell no one would ever say, ‘No,’ about staying with Parker,” said Riley Sutter, who lived with Fowlds the past three seasons. “He’s been billeting so long now he really understands it.”
But Fowlds isn’t just some pushover who lets the players do whatever they want. He sets standards for conduct and interaction, which have helped his players grow not just as hockey players, but human beings.
“When I came to Parker’s at 17, I was very reserved at his house and would go to my room and just hang out there, that’s what I did at my old billets’ place,” Hart said. “So he came in the first day, knocked on the door and said we weren’t going to have a closed door all the time, we were going to have conversation and I had to be engaged. I think for myself I became more sociable with other people just from talking with him — Parker is a very social guy, wherever he is he won’t stop talking. I think living with him definitely helped me grow as an individual and a person.”
Therefore, Fowlds has become like a family member to the players he’s billeted. Barry Horman, Fowlds’ first ever player, has his daughters call Fowlds their American grandpa. Murray, Hart and Sutter all brought Fowlds to the NHL draft with them to be there when they were selected. Fowlds remains in regular contact with 13 of the 15 players he’s billeted.
“I thought it was important to have Parker there, he’s like my grandpa,” Hart said about why he wanted Fowlds to accompany him to the draft.
“I talk to Parker every day or every other day, whether it’s by Facetime or a phone call,” Hart added. “I think it’s important to stay in touch with family, and he’s family.”
Fowlds will be opening his home once again starting this week. Sutter was set to return to town Tuesday for his fourth season living with Fowlds, and Ian Walker will be taking Hart’s place as Fowlds’ second player, meaning Fowlds will be adding to his jersey collection.
And Fowlds insists he doesn’t have a favorite among the players he’s housed.
“This sounds funny, but I have good memories of every kid I’ve had,” Fowlds said. “Everyone asks if they’re my favorite, and I tell them I don’t have a favorite because they’re all my favorite. They’ve all been great.”
Just as Fowlds has been a great billet.
If you have an idea for a community sports story, email Nick Patterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.