NEWARK, N.J. -- For years, Rob Suggitt dreamed about visiting every rink in the NHL.
Finally, he acted this year and finds himself in the midst of a whirlwind, month-long tour of hockey across North America.
Suggitt, a self-professed hockey fanatic from Edmonton, is on a quest to visit 30 different NHL rinks in 30 consecutive nights. It is part bucket-list adventure and part charity fundraiser. It has also been an unforgettable experience.
"For me, it's going to be the memories of this trip," Suggitt said as he sat at the Prudential Center before a game Sunday night between the New Jersey Devils and the Anaheim Ducks. "Right now, they are just incredible. As I finish it, I'm going to remember this for the rest of my life."
The Devils were No. 17 on his 30-stop tour, which began on Long Island on March 13 and ends on the final night of the regular season, April 11, in Toronto.
When all is said and done, the 53-year-old, a co-president of a publishing company, will have traveled 23,521 miles and spent close to $30,000 of his own money to cross this quest off his bucket list.
"It's going to be about $25,000 to $30,000 and that's using some airline miles and trying to keep things as cheap as possible," Suggitt said. "Early on, I probably wound up getting it closer to $20,000, but I have spoiled myself with a few good seats and my wife joined me for the first six days of the trip and that was a treat. That added to the cost a little more.
"Thirty days, 30 games, $30,000.”
But for Suggitt, it is priceless.
He kicked around versions of this idea for the better part of a decade. More than once he planned out a workable itinerary. Yet, something always got in the way.
"I said next year, next year," he said. "It was always getting time away; it was always the cost."
He had the support of his wife, Michele, and his children to go at any time. Obviously, as co-president of his company, he could wrangle the time away from work, but he could never put it all together at the same time.
Then, the idea surfaced again this year and when he figured out how to tie a charity element to the trip, there was no more putting it off. Suggitt Publishers works regularly with Make-a-Wish Foundation and it proved to be a natural fit.
"I told them about this trip and we sat down and brainstormed and came up with an idea where I could do this and raise money for Make-A-Wish," Suggitt said. "People talk about it being a bucket-list trip, but I call it a wish-list trip because it's always been on my wish list to see a NHL game in every arena. I'm very fortunate that I can take a trip like this, but really there are kids that are far less fortunate. If we can raise some real good money for those kids, that is going to make this a real special trip for me."
Suggitt has already raised more than $13,000. He hopes to finish with $30,000 in donations. Interested parties can donate from his page, 30games-30nights.com, which houses a map of his travels as well as a travelogue about his experience at each arena.
There have already been a number of highlights to the trip, he says.
He has been struck by many of the modern buildings he has visited, remarking that the homes of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes have left an impression, as did his visit to the Prudential Center, which he called one of the best buildings he has visited so far. They all have whetted his appetite for the new building due soon for the Edmonton Oilers.
He said he got goose bumps when he visited Madison Square Garden. A visit to TD Garden in Boston on St. Patrick's Day was also a highlight.
The trip, more than anything, has deepened his love of hockey. Suggitt grew up a fan of the Montreal Canadiens as a child and then switched to the Oilers when Edmonton got a team. But this journey has reaffirmed for him that it is the sport he loves more than any particular team.
"I love my hometown team, but they are struggling this year," Suggitt said. "I'm a fan of the sport, so you find other teams to cheer for too. There are other teams that are playing terrific hockey. There are other athletes on other teams that I really admire; Tampa Bay and Steve Stamkos, Patrik Elias for the New Jersey Devils who is 38 years old and still contributes.
"It's easy for me to go to other arenas and cheer for any home team."