Artvoice sports journalists hit milestone this week
This is the story of two friends with a crazy idea… “What if we could travel across the United States and Canada, and attend a game of each of the sports franchises in the major sports? Every NBA, NHL, NFL and Major League Baseball team, playing in 108 separate venues across 51 cities.”
For Andrew Kulyk and Peter Farrell, such was an undertaking that began right here in Buffalo, on April 19, 1998, when the pair attended the home finale of the Buffalo Sabres season against the Ottawa Senators.
Kulyk, a small business owner and former elected office holder, and Farrell, a letter carrier for the United States Postal Service, did not launch this project from the get go. Farrell explains, “We were attending a couple of Sabres games down in Florida and the NHL All Star Game in Tampa back in 1999. Over beer and wings at a Buffalo themed sports bar, we started sharing stories of what arenas and stadiums we had visited in our lifetimes. By the end of the night, we had restaurant place mats flipped over and we were furiously scribbling down the lists of teams and the buildings they play in.”
The Ultimate Sports Road Trip, or “USRT” as they like to call it, was hatched. A website was launched to keep friends apprised of their schedule, and eventually to score and rank the venues according to a set of metrics which they established.
Their quest took them to 121 different teams (the NBA and NHL have both expanded since then, bringing the current roster of franchises to 124). It took them five years, a weekend here, a planned weeklong trip there, and on December 17, 2002, at Ford Field in Detroit, the duo, with a substantial family entourage in tow to help mark the occasion, hit the finish line with the Detroit Lions. To the best of their knowledge, they were the first sports traveling fans in history to mark such an accomplishment.
The accolades poured in. a story about their journeys appeared in Sports Illustrated. NBC invited them to appear on The Today Show, and less than a month after their final game they were interviewed live by Lester Holt to a nationwide audience. Radio interviews and other media appearances came in fast and furious. “The month of January, 2003 was our fifteen minutes of fame,” Kulyk recalls.
So that was 20 years ago. What since? “A lot,” Kulyk replies.
Kulyk and Farrell decided to keep hitting the road, as teams were constantly either relocating to new facilities, in a couple cases moving to different cities, and of course, the addition of three expansion teams. In the course of those 20 years, they have returned to visit 49 of the official four sport franchises and attend games in venues that didn’t exist during their original tour. They are now current and up to date with all teams visited. The next frontier is set for fall of 2024, when the NBA Los Angeles Clippers move into their new arena. And come 2026 might be the shortest road trip of them all – a trip to Orchard Park and the new stadium of the Buffalo Bills.
But they have added much more. Minor league hockey and junior hockey. NCAA college football. Minor league baseball. NCAA basketball and an annual trip to a March madness subregional. Major League Soccer. A visit to all 50 states and Puerto Rico to touch a sports venue. And most memorable – eight separate journeys to Europe, where they have watched both the Buffalo Bills and the Buffalo Sabres play games at neutral sites. Additionally, they have embraced the sport of soccer, Euro style, with visits to stadiums in the English Premier League, the Bundesliga, and a magical trip to the UEFA Euro 2016 championships in France.
In total, the Ultimate Sports Road Trip has racked up a grand total of 589 different venue experiences, throughout North America and Europe. They are hoping to hit the 600 mark sometime in 2023.
In 2004, Kulyk and Farrell joined Artvoice as contributing sports columnists, taking on coverage of the AAA Buffalo Bisons. One year later, following a year long work stoppage in the NHL, the two also took on the task of covering the NHL Buffalo Sabres, bringing a unique writing perspective on the two sports, given their travel experiences. “Being a part of the media corps opened a lot of doors with the teams, and a chance to make friends and contacts both with the teams and sports journalists covering the sports,” said Kulyk. The two are still involved with this publication as contributing free lance columnists.
Through blogging and such platforms as Twitter and Facebook, the USRT made contacts and friends with others around the USA and Canada who were avid sports travel enthusiasts, with several chasing the same objective – attend a game of all 124 teams in the major sports. “it’s called ‘Club 124’, and we now have I think 14 known members who have completed the quest and several others who are still chasing,” said Farrell. The group tries to meet up once a year to hang out and share stories of their travels, and keep closely connected via social media.
From time to time the USRT has been recognized and feted by the teams. The MLB Tampa Bay Rays invited Kulyk and Farrell to announce the starting lineups from the field. The NFL Philadelphia Eagles also had the two on their field as honor guards at the entrance tunnel while the home players were introduced.
Brushes with greatness? There have been plenty. The two were walking around Indianapolis’ Gainbridge Fieldhouse with their team tour guide, hours before that night’s game featuring the Indiana Pacers against the Miami Heat. Down on the court was one lone individual – Heat Assistant Coach and former Buffalo Braves icon Bob McAdoo, quietly shooting baskets. They were introduced, and McAdoo invited the pair to join him in tossing the basketball around. (Farrell participated, Kulyk demurred, and just watched his childhood idol wide eyed).
A few years later, Kulyk was in the media lounge in Tampa, sitting alone enjoying a pregame meal. Who comes by and asks to sit at his table was none other than Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman. With just the two of them, the dinner conversation went on about favorite hockey arenas in the NHL and the juniors.
This Sunday, Kulyk and Farrell will be hosting an anniversary party for family and friends at Sahlen Field in Buffalo, with the Buffalo Bisons and the Iowa Cubs set to play that afternoon. “We wanted to commemorate this occasion with the Buffalo Bisons. That was the plan all along. Their organization has been so affirming and supportive over the years. We truly feel like we are a part of their family,” said Kulyk.
As for the future? “The Ultimate Sports road Trip is a journey which really has no conclusion or finish line,” explains Farrell. “As long as we have the time, the health, the means, and the passion to do it, we will continue to plant the flag at stadiums, arenas and ballparks and rack up new venue experiences. This is what we do. This is who we are.”