March 22, 2005
Postcard: Road Trips

By Nate Ewell

Predictably, this year's Hockey East championship weekend led to some traffic on I-93 and crowds on the T. But more than a few fans made longer trips, and were able to count frozen ponds on their descent into Logan Airport.

Hockey brought four college buddies from two states and three countries to a row of club seats in Section 115 of the FleetCenter. It's become a tradition for Toby, Chad, Matt and Pete, who converge on Boston from England, Detroit, Montreal and Durham, respectively. They all graduated from UNH between 1987 and 1992.

It's the type of reunion that was undoubtedly repeated in Albany, Detroit and St. Paul, and will be elsewhere in the next three weeks. Pete picked up the tickets the day they went on sale, and the group met up in Boston on Friday.

It all started a few years back when Pete had an extra ticket and called Chad, two days before the semifinals. Chad found his way from Detroit on short notice, and since then, they plan ahead.

"We buy them on faith every year," Chad said. "There's that day in December when they go on sale, and at 11:05 it's all set. Then we've just got our fingers crossed that UNH will make it."

"There's always that risk that we're going to end up watching Merrimack and Northeastern," said Toby.

Toby, who made the trip from London, earned free pre-game wings from the others – not for his travels, of course, but because he leads the group in INCH Pick 'Em. He discovered college hockey early in his time in Durham, where he helped make Snively Arena lively.

"College hockey was my favorite thing about college," said Toby, holding a Union Jack with "UNH" written on it. "It's the closest thing to soccer I ever found."

Now, even in London, Detroit and Montreal, college hockey has its hooks in these guys, and it's not just one weekend a season. During the year, they watch New Hampshire Public Television's online broadcasts, discussing the game in a chat room while it takes place.

As they say, distance truly can make the heart grow fonder – in friendships, as well as college hockey.

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