SUN Hockey Pool

Puck fan's crazy quest for 30/30

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

Crisscrossing North America as part of a road trip anointing him the NHL's ultimate fan, Steve Williamson got a brilliant taste of what it's like to be a player.

Specifically, what it's like to be a Blackhawk.

As part of an on-ice intermission shootout contest, he misfired -- just as the Chicago Blackhawks have done for the better part of a decade.

"They booed me," laughed Williamson of the catcalls United Center fans have directed towards the ice for years.

"This hot girl kicked my butt. I know they were booing me because they wanted her to win. It was a chance to win two tickets anywhere United Airlines flies -- I really could have used those."

Fulfilling a dream he's had since 2001 when a year in Japan kept him from watching his favourite game, the 49-year-old Floridian is in the midst of a trek that will see him attend 30 games in 30 nights, which includes visiting every NHL rink. Touching down in Calgary yesterday for Game 19 of the string, Williamson admitted he was a tad anxious to see how his Tampa Bay Lightning jersey would be received in the city from which his club stole the Stanley Cup in 2004.

"Calgary fans have probably been the most accommodating -- five or six invited me to be their guest at the game," said Williamson, who has met thousands of NHL fans through his 30gamesin30nights.com website on which he blogs about his travels.

"In most cities, people inviting me are season ticket holders who are telling their wife 'honey ... you're staying home tonight,' " Williamson said.

Calgary's Richard Blackburn played host to Williamson last night, picking him up at his hotel yesterday and taking him to the game vs. the Minnesota Wild where they sat in Section 221.

Using a combination of air miles, hotel points and discount air fares, Williamson took two days to piece together a rigorous travel schedule that even includes backup plans in case flights are cancelled. Thanks to the generosity of several fans and teams, he's managed to keep his budget to $8,000 US, which the father of two explains is akin to a family vacation for four in Hawaii.

"I'm just taking my vacation in a different way," said Williamson, who started in Detroit Oct. 26 and finishes Nov. 24 in Tampa Bay.

"In New York, I heard swear words I've never heard before, but that's just New York. People in every rink have been extremely generous and even invited me to stay in their houses. I knew hockey fans were good, but I had no idea how good and how generous."

Toting little more than a carry-on bag that includes his jersey -- No. 30, of course -- souvenir ticket stubs and other essentials, he gets little sleep at night as he departs every city early each morning.

"Adrenaline is keeping me going," said Williamson, recently informed his trek will land him a Guinness Record.

"I'm pretty good at washing my jersey in the sink. Thankfully the league is right, they do not retain moisture and dry pretty quickly."


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