Thirty in Thirty
by Andrew Kulyk & Peter Farrell
These past two years we have had the opportunity to welcome some true hockey road warriors to HSBC Arena. In 2006, Danielle Grunquist of Golden, Colorado, concluded a three-month tour of all the NHL arenas right here in Buffalo. Last season, the teenage duo of Andrew DiMento and Daniel Tsunekawa from Oceanside, California, successfully managed to circle the continent by car and pay a visit to all 30 NHL teams, including the Buffalo Sabres.
But this road trip project is way over the top. Crazy. Filthy.
Steve Williamson, of Orlando, Florida, is doing his own tour of every team in the National Hockey League. But he is attempting to do it in 30 days, a feat without precedent.
A diehard hockey fan and father of two teenage sons, Williamson is a fan of the Tampa Bay Lightning and works as promotions director for the Orlando/Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Being so heavily involved in travel, Williamson has racked up a whole boatload of frequent flier miles, which he is now using up as he races back and forth across the continent to complete this improbable journey. “With the connections, there will be a total of 35 separate flights on this trip,” said Williamson, who we interviewed by phone this past Sunday from Denver.
The whole experience has been years in the planning, said Williamson, who back in 2001 was working in Osaka, Japan, and needed a hockey fix. “I saw that my Lightning were playing three West Coast games, so I caught a flight to watch them, and the idea for something much bigger came out of that.”
Williamson spent many hours putting together a game schedule, which he then adjusted so he could see more of his Tampa Bay team on the road. He began the journey on October 26 in Detroit and will wrap it all up close to home on November 24 at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa. He will be in Buffalo next Wednesday, November 21, when the Sabres play the Ottawa Senators, stop 27 of the journey.
“Just putting together a block of 30 days where there is at least one game every night was a challenge in itself. So what I did was take nights where there was only one or two games on the NHL schedule and used that as a lynchpin, then built out the rest of the schedule from there.”
He has set up a Web site (www.30gamesin30nights.com), which describes the entire journey in detail, contains his itinerary, photos from the road and daily blog entries. As the trip has progressed, Williamson has received growing media attention from numerous publications, including the New York Times and the L.A. Daily News.
Any travel disasters so far? “Nope. The weather’s been great everywhere and flights have been on time,” Williamson reports. “About the nearest miss I had was flying from Ft. Lauderdale to Ottawa. The first flight was running late, but the attendant allowed me to sit right up front so I could get off the plane first. I made my connection with two minutes to spare.” Williamson admits that flight delays are a big concern. “I have a backup flight for every itinerary just in case,” he said.
While Williamson states that some of these arenas are starting to become a blur, his time in Montreal stands out as memorable.
“Before the game they dimmed the lights and everyone was in their seats. Down at center ice, this silver-haired man steps out and it’s Henri Richard, the ‘Pocket Rocket,’ someone I well remember from my childhood, there to honor several 1,000-game players. They sing the national anthem in English and French, and everyone is doing it in unison. I know I have a number of places still to visit, but for the overall hockey experience, Montreal is going to be difficult to top.”
A number of teams have rolled out the red carpet—in Phoenix, Williamson was interviewed on their video board and got to do his own Coyote howl, and was a guest on their broadcast. The Columbus Blue Jackets presented him with his very own #30 jersey.
Williamson doesn’t know where he’ll be sitting here in Buffalo, since he will be looking for a single ticket once he arrives, but he’ll be hard to miss. “I always wear my Lightning #30 jersey with ‘30 in 30’ on the back.”
If you happen upon this crazy road tripper at the arena next Wednesday, give him a warm Western New York welcome. As for us, we have a post-game date at the Anchor Bar after the Sens game, enjoying beer and chicken wings and sharing stories of sports road trip adventures with another member of our special fraternity.
TARO SEZ (Winter Classic Edition)
■ Friday is the last day to register online (sabres.com) to win a chance to purchase tickets to the January 1 Winter Classic at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Partially obstructed view seats will go for $10, and 4,500 tickets will be available. One member of the party attending in those seats must be 16 or younger. The team has yet to announce tailgating policies, parking costs or what times the lots will open.
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