They arrive at her doorstep nervous and excited — butterflies swirling in their stomachs, dreams of hockey stardom racing through their thoughts.
They are young — some as young as 16 — far from home and completely at the mercy of a woman they have never met.
They know it, and she knows it.
"Like a deer in the headlights," said Denise Comazzetto.
It's the look she sees every time a Blazers hockey player comes to live at her house in Valleyview.
Comazzetto and her husband, Mario, are a billet family for the Kamloops hockey team, which means they open their home and their hearts to out-of-town hockey players every season.
It's a demanding job full of responsibility and emotional reward.
"It doesn't take long before you get to know them and they feel comfortable with you," said Comazzetto.
The couple has served as billets for the past five years, ever since Comazzetto retired from her HR job at Royal Inland Hospital.
They have two children of their own — a son, 35, and a daughter, 33 — both living away from home. But it wasn't so much that the house seemed empty and quiet without them, said Comazzetto, just that the couple was looking for a way to give back to the community and to a hockey team Mario had long been a fan of.
Since welcoming their first billet, the Comazzettos have provided a safe and nurturing home life for six full-time placements and eight temporary team placements.
This past season was their busiest yet. They had only planned to take one player — Matt Needham, 16 — but then another young man needed a home for the season, too.
Comazetto said there was no way she could turn away 17-year-old Brady Gaudet.
"They get you right here," she said, putting a hand to her heart. "They become like a son."
On Sunday, as Comazetto opens Mother's Day cards from her own children, chances are her billets will be thinking of her, too. In many ways, she's a surrogate parent to them during the hockey season — a role she takes seriously.
"You've got somebody else's child you're responsible for," said Comazetto. "
Comazetto admits she spoils her billets. She not only cooks and cleans for them, she happily does their laundry.
"There's nothing they really have to do," she said.
"I say to them, 'I just want you to be happy; I want you to focus on school, I want you to focus on hockey.'"
As for hockey, Comazzetto has become a huge fan and goes to every game, wearing her Blazers jersey and cheering the boys. If the young men have a rough day at school or practice, she and her husband are there for support.
"It's another ear. Sure, we're not their parents but we're who they have," said Comazzetto.
"I think the first billet meeting we ever went to they said, 'You're their soft place to fall. You are home to them.' So I've always been conscious of that; I want them happy here. I mean I spoil them, I know I do."
But what she gives, she gets back.
The players are unfailingly polite and well behaved. They thank her after each meal (she laughs that her own kids never did that) and at least one billet still calls her on Mother's Day every year: former Blazers captain Scott Wasden.
He was one of the first players to arrive on her doorstep.
"I got traded to Kamloops when I was 19 and that's never an easy time when you're a young guy having to change places," said Wasden, now 24.
"She and Mario took me in and treated me like one of their own. We really got to form a special bond."
Wasden stayed for one season before heading to the University of B.C. for varsity hockey, but the bond he formed with Comazzetto and her husband has kept them in touch.
"Besides taking care of me, she was someone to talk to — talk about hockey and other things and get some advice from," said Wasden.
"She's a great person."
The first time Wasden phoned Comazzetto on Mother's Day, simply to thank her for being a second mom to him, she was overwhelmed by the gesture.
"It choked me up," said Comazzetto. "He's just a wonderful kid."