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Fans fans in the stands

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks

It would have been cheaper to fly, but that would have cost Luke Antrim and four friends a lot of memories.

When the NHL schedule for this season was released last June, Antrim, a 22-year-old marketing and social media director from Nanaimo, BC, sat down with six friends to plan a road trip to an away game, preferably to somewhere warm, to watch their beloved Vancouver Canucks.

Earlier last summer the crew pinned Phoenix as a possibility and when talk of the Coyotes moving to Winnipeg arose, they set the capital of Manitoba as a back up destination.

Lucky for them no tuques, scarves or mittens were needed with the Coyotes staying put; they bought tickets as soon as they were released for Vancouver’s game in Phoenix on February 28th.

By the time it came to hit the road, the crew was down to six people, which was a blessing in disguise. Six people proved to be more than enough when they all piled into a tan 2011 Dodge Caravan to begin the 2,600 kilometre trip.

On board were Antrim, his girlfriend Nicole, her brother Jimmy, his girlfriend Courtney, and siblings Pat and Bryan, four DVD players, two GPS’s and a full tank of gas. The rules of the road were simple: there were no rules.

“The only thing we decided was that us four guys would split the driving up into four hours shifts, that’s it,” laughed Antrim.

The trek began when the crew caught the 5:45 a.m. ferry out of Nanaimo for Tsawwassen. They drove straight from Tsawwassen to the Peace Arch border crossing and didn’t have any problems getting into the United States, other than the border guard looking rather puzzled they were taking a lengthy road trip for just a hockey game.

The things Canucks fans do for their team.

Once in the States the crew made a beeline for Las Vegas, Nevada, arriving 7 p.m. Sunday night. They stayed at Hooters Casino at a steal of a deal that included a room, free hot wings and a pitcher of beer for $25.

It goes without saying the 6 a.m. wake-up call the next morning in Sin City was tough to take, but the crew wanted to see the Grand Canyon that Monday, trade deadline day, so time was of the essence.

As it turned out, the canyon wasn't the talk of the day.

“I had trouble focusing on the Grand Canyon because I was changing in the van and I heard on the radio the Canucks had traded Hodgson for Kassian,” said Antrim. “I wanted to go around telling people, but I knew they wouldn’t care of know what I was talking about.”

By Monday night the traveling sextet was in Phoenix surrounded by people who knew and cared about the Canucks.

Odd that 2,600 kilmetres from home you can feel right at home, but the sight of others in blue and green representing the Canucks is a beautiful thing. As game time approached Tuesday, Antrim and company began seeing more and more Vancouver fans and by pre-game warm-up, they were in a mosh pit of Canucks supporters.

The game, a 2-1 Coyotes shootout win, didn’t end as planned. It was a perfect trip nonetheless.

“It was absolutely amazing. Ten times over it was worth it. I think it was more fun to drive than it would have been to fly and we talked to people from Maple Ridge, people from Calgary, people that flew from all over the place who said they wish they would have driven.”

These six drove each other crazy en route, as you’d imagine, so next time they’ll be getting an RV.

Hopefully next time they’ll be getting a win for their efforts as well.

“That definitely would have been nice, but the game lived up to the hype and we’re all still friends,” Antrim laughed.

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