30 games in 30 days. As Williamson put it, “the concept is simple”. He plans to attend 30 NHL games in 30 different arenas in 30 days.
“Thousands of hockey fans have the dream of seeing a hockey game in every NHL arena,” said Williamson. “I wondered if anyone had ever been to see 30 games in 30 nights in 30 different arenas. I did some research and found that, to the best of my knowledge, nobody had.”
So he decided to become a pioneer. And with that, a simple concept turned into a plan.
Simple, right? Factor in weather, flight delays, hotel reservations, rental cars, hockey tickets and luggage, and the concept suddenly becomes a lot more complicated. But if anybody can accomplish this seemingly impossible feat, Steve Williamson can.
The 49-year old Orlando native is no stranger to travel and tourism. Since 2000, Williamson has flown over 885,000 kilometres. One of those trips includes a 17,000 kilometre round-trip from Japan to California and back to watch a few hockey games.
Now based out of Florida, Williamson’s focus has shifted to getting other people air-bound.
“I work for the Orlando Visitors Bureau. We’re in charge of driving tourism to Orlando,” Williamson said. “In essence, we’re making peoples’ vacation dreams come true.”
So when Williamson approached his bosses about his dream vacation, they gave him the green light and the planning began.
“In order for it to work, I had to do it early in the year when weather was not an issue. Because if I’m rolling into Edmonton or Montreal or Denver in February, the odds are that the weather’s going to affect the travel plans,” Williamson said. READY TO FLY
He started his expedition October 26th in Detroit where he watched Henrik Zetterburg and the Red Wings down the San Jose Sharks 5-1.
A different team and different result followed, night after night. But beyond the final score, for Williamson, the trip really isn’t all about the game.
“At the end of the day, it’s the people that I’ve met along the way, the hockey stories they’ve shared with me is what I will never forget.”
Williamson will have his own share of stories to tell after his whirlwind adventure wraps up November 24th in Tampa Bay.
There’s the rerouted flight from Phoenix to Columbus. Instead of connecting through Atlanta, Williamson’s flight touched down in New York.
“If I had a parachute I could have just jumped out of the plane and saved myself about six hours,” said Williamson.
Or the 30-night diet of hot dog and beer. Twenty games in and Williamson crowns the Dallas hotdogs as the best.
“They called it the ‘Knife and Fork Dog’. There’s chili, and onions and cheese…they say you need a knife and fork to eat it.”
Up until the Vancouver game, his greatest challenge with his hotdog diet had been keeping his jersey clean.
“I’ve learned that ketchup stains come out easily, mustard stains, not so much.”
After his night in Vancouver, Williamson makes a quick trip to Edmonton, spending less than 11 hours in the Alberta capital. Those 11 hours resulted in his trip’s biggest hiccup: a bout of food poisoning.
But still he trekked on to St. Louis to endure his 22nd game in as many nights. TRIP OF A LIFETIME
Looking back he’ll be able to share his opinion of the league’s bests. From Dallas’ hotdogs to Vancouver’s goalie (Roberto Luongo
), and Montreal’s beer (Molson Export) and arena (the Bell Centre). He’ll have seen it all and forever be able to tell the tale.
He can tell his grand-kids about his trip to Chicago when he saw Patrick Kane grab a goal and an assist to lead his Blackhawks 4-2 over the St. Louis Blues. Or his stop in San Jose where he watched Devin Setoguchi tally two goals to seal a 5-0 victory for the Sharks over the Phoenix Coyotes.
He can add those games to the matches he’s already been in the stands for. In his 49 years, Williamson has watched his two favorite teams win a game-seven Stanley Cup championship final.
In 1994 Williamson watched the Rangers take game seven over the Vancouver Canucks to win the Stanley Cup. Ten years later, Williamson was in the stands to watch his Tampa Bay Lightning top the Calgary Flames in game seven of the 2004 Stanley Cup finals.
Williamson has lived the hockey fan’s ultimate dream, achieving the seemingly unachievable. Maybe it’s the promoter in him, maybe it’s the hockey fan, but he’s confident that any person anywhere can accomplish the feat he set out to accomplish.
“I think there are a lot of people out there who have thoughts in their head, but it remains a dream. As a parent, I tell my kids, if there’s something that you want to do, just do it. Find a way to make it happen,” Williamson said.