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Planning pays off for Ontario fan

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Keith Bingham and roommate Amy Van Toen with Rod Pelley.

Keith Bingham knew that if Rod Pelley were driving all the way from Montreal to Vancouver, he stood a pretty good chance of meeting him along the way.

Bingham, a longtime Devils fan, wasn't just going to let that opportunity zoom by him on the Trans-Canada Highway.

With his wife, Treena, following Pelley's journey live on the Devils' web site, Bingham coordinated an impromptu greeting party as Pelley passed through the Binghams' hometown of Kenora, Ontario.

"When I first saw it, I thought, 'That's neat,'" Bingham said Friday by telephone. "Then I said, 'Hey, Canada, we only have one highway basically that goes from end to end, and it goes right through us. So we knew he was going to be coming through us. We were actually really excited."

Pelley had two possible routes: one through the middle of Kenora (population 20,000), or the Kenora Bypass, which goes north of the city.

"I got home from work and we looked on the site," Bingham, a corrections officer, said. "On our computer, it showed that he was about 20 miles out of town, so we just guessed he'd be taking the Bypass. When we went out to where we were, I phoned my wife at work just to do a double-check and she said he was at an intersection on the Bypass with Strecker Road. I knew exactly where that was, probably eight minutes from where we were. We just knew he'd be coming right by us."

Finding a black pick-up truck with a trailer in the middle of Northwestern Ontario would seem like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. But for Bingham, timing was everything.

He had minutes to race to the spot where he thought Pelley might roll through.

"When we actually decided we were going to do this, we knew we had about 10 minutes total to leave our house, throw on jerseys, grab as much memorabilia as I could find quickly and get there," he said. "Rod was excellent. We chit-chatted and talked and I said, 'Too bad,' because I offered him a home-cooked meal and places to see in our town because it's actually quite a little nice city."

A nice little city that also happens to be the hometown of a current NHLer that Bingham's wife used to babysit: Flyers captain Mike Richards.

"We get ostracized in our town because this is a total Philadelphia town because of Mike," said Bingham, whose attachment to the Devils predates their arrival in New Jersey. "We get ribbed all the time, but we're true to our roots."

Those roots run deep: when Bingham first fell in love with the team, they were still wearing blue, red and gold.

"Back in 1980, my brother came home with a Colorado Rockies jersey – and I liked it," he recalled. "That's how I became a Devils fan. I've been with them since."

While Bingham never saw a game at the Devils' old home in the Meadowlands, he and his wife visited New Jersey for four games in March and plan on making the trip every year. They toured the arena and met Ken Daneyko, Chico Resch (a personal favorite of Bingham's for his Rockies ties) and Doc Emrick.

"That's our vacation," Bingham said. "We're not going south for the winter, we're going to New Jersey."

In the meantime, he has a pretty good story to tell, not about how he went to see the Devils, but how a Devil came to Kenora.

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