By Brian Wheeler
The beach is about as far away from rinks and pucks as you can possibly get. Ask any native Buffalonian. During the off-season, we're not waxing our surfboards and heading out to Lake Erie to Hang Ten.
But for two young men who are taking a journey of centering passes and kick saves, that's exactly where they began, in the land of sun and sand.
California natives Andrew Dimento and Daniel Tsunekawa are on a quest to see all 30 NHL arenas in a two and a half month span (follow their progress at: http://easysite.com/meleandygrand
"We played hockey together growing up," said Dimento. "We were just walking home one day and had the idea to travel after high school."
For two hockey fanatics visiting every arena in the league was the logical progression for the plan. Their journey officially began on October 15, 2006 but it's been years in the making. Last night's game against the Ottawa Senators was the midway point for their trip.
"Our parents wanted us to plan it out and make sure it was something that we wanted to do," said Dimento. "This year we actually bought the tickets."
When each NHL schedule would be released over the past three seasons, Dimento and Tsunekawa would practice plotting the trip through Expedia.com as if it were happening the following summer. Upon their graduation from high school last summer, the road trip dream became a reality.
Their operating budget for the entire trip - gas, expenditures, tourist attractions, etc. - came to a little less than $8,000.
"My parents have been pretty supportive," said Tsunekawa. "They thought it was a pretty cool idea and they've helped us out a lot."
Dimento and Tsunekawa outfitted their SUV with a makeshift, elevated bed in the backseat. Beneath their "quarters," coolers were installed to house their rations. The modifications took the duo about a week to construct. They've been living on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and cold cuts for just about a month.
"The bed works out great," said Tsunekawa. "It's pretty crowded though. We try not to eat fast food too much. Mostly we just stop at grocery stores and buy supplies."
There have been a few bumps in the road. A speeding ticket in Arizona slowed their progression while a dead battery in Columbus nearly put a halt to the trip.
"That was definitely the worst night," said Tsunekawa referring to Columbus. "We woke up at 3 a.m. and the battery was clicking because we left the lights on. We were forced to jump start the car."
After Buffalo, the duo will head into Ontario and up through Montreal, catching games in Toronto and Ottawa on the way. Then they will head south along the east coast for the final stretch of their trip.
"Seeing games in Canada with those fans, that was definitely exciting," said Dimento of Calgary and Vancouver.
"It's a lot of traveling and a lot of driving," said Tsunekawa. "I don't think we expected to be driving quite this much. But it's everything we've thought it would be.
"We'd like to be home right now, but we'd more like to finish the trip and be able to say we did it."