The Team: (left to right)
Top row: Ryan, Leo, Josh, Eric, Albert
Bottom Row: Cory, Pete, Alan, Brian, Nick N, Nick G
Most of the crew lives in Northern Jersey. I do not. I live about an hour south of everyone. So, my day on the road began at about 5 am. My first two stops were two towns off Interstate 80 to pick up two teammates(Nick N and Leo) and Nick’s girlfriend. The four of us along with my fiance then set out on the trek to Buffalo. Our vehicle of choice was a 2000 GMC Yukon XL. It seats 8 comfortably, with ample room for gear. Since we only had 5 of us, Leo got the back bench seat to himself for the car ride. I’m pretty sure he slept most of it. Nick started out as a sub for us, but was quickly on full time. He’s one of the few guys I trust to play forward and defense because he has a pretty good understanding of the positions. Leo is usually the first guy to fill in when somebody can’t make it to a game. He lives close to the rink so he’s able to get there on short notice. If I’m honest, Leo might be the best actual skater that suits up for us. He’s incredible fluid and has some real speed to him.
The drive is a lengthy one, but nothing crazy. From where we were in Jersey, the recommended route was I-80, to I-380, to I-81, to I-90. Sometimes you get on I-681 around Syracuse and sometimes you don’t it depends on traffic. We made a gas and provision stop at the TA Truckstop in Columbia NJ off Exit 4 on 80. It’s one of the final exits in NJ. The breakfast taquitos I crammed into my maw weren’t terrible, and I was able to stock up on energy drinks. From there it was around 5 hours with a coffee stop on I90 once I cleared Syracuse. At some point I wished for CB radios like they have in Top Gear so we can talk to one another on the trip. Remembering the invention of the cell phone, I dialed Albert for the express purpose of mocking Josh’s driving.
Josh, Albert and Ryan weren’t far behind us. They had come up in Josh’s 4 door Wrangler. Albert and Ryan are club hockey teammates in college. Albert has been a goaltender all his life, but for us he skates out. It shows that he’s spent most his life as a goalie, but he’s a tenacious one. Josh is consistently one of our top scoring forwards. He didn’t do college and prior to joining this team, he hadn’t played organized hockey for a few years since high school. He plays all positions along the forward line, but I like to keep him at right wing if I can. Ryan is an unknown to me. He’s joining the team for this trip and I’ve only ever seen him play once. I assume he’s going to be a help to the team and I’m glad to have him.
We’re unable to check in until Pete arrives, but they’re willing to valet the car for us. Having dropped the car at the hotel I decided I was hungry. The Anchor Bar in Buffalo is a few blocks from our hotel, so we walk down to get Buffalo wings and start drinking. Soon after arriving at the bar, Josh and company also arrived. Since they had to wait on Pete also, I had them come to the bar to get food.
From here it gets chaotic. I was in the middle of eating as everyone else started to arrive so I walked back to the hotel and worked out room assignments. Erica (my fiance) and I had requested our own room, rather than sharing. The hotel was gracious enough to allow us to upgrade this booking to a suite. If you ever have to stay in Buffalo, the DoubleTree Downtown is excellent. Our first game was at 6pm, so after getting everyone checked in we went to our respective rooms and set down. Some people sought food, some sought naps but the door to my suite remained open at all times. It became the team lounge in those early hours and never really stopped being that. The entire team had made it to the hotel (except Cory) and we got ready to go play our first outdoor game as a squad.