HALIFAX — At least they could take a plane this time.
Nancy and Greg Popovich, parents of Guelph Storm goaltender Anthony Popovich, set a goal before this season of attending every one of their son’s hockey games.
Sault Ste. Marie? Done. Twice.
Saginaw? No problem.
Son not starting in goal that night? See you there.
Halifax? Let do it.
The couple, who live in Belleville, figure they’ve put well over 60,000 kilometres on their 2011 Ford Escape, and they've loved every kilometre of it.
“It’s been absolutely fantastic,” says Nancy.
“How lucky are we to be able to retire last June and everybody says ‘what are you going to do when you retire?’ Well, you know what, we just looked at each other and said we’re going to be Guelph Storm fans and Anthony Popovich fans and follow the team,” she says.
“We’re kind of exhausted. It’s been a bit of a journey. But we’re just so fortunate. For us, this is amazing.”
Greg says they just make sure there’s “food at home for our other son, the cat’s fed, then we’re all good.”
“We went to a lot of games the last couple of years. But nothing like this year,” he says.
For the Popoviches it's been 68 regular season games, 24 playoff games and now the Memorial Cup, which will be another three, four or five, depending on how the Storm does.
Greg was a high school teacher and Nancy a high school principal. They both retired last year, making the commitment to follow Anthony's career this season a little easier in principle, if not reality.
“My dad’s original goal was just to see a game in every rink, but since they’re retired they decided they had the opportunity to see every game, regardless if I was starting or not,” Anthony says.
“They haven’t missed a game this year and it’s been awesome. It’s good to see them do that and I’m happy for them … They’re troopers and it’s good to see their support,” their son says.
Along the way there were a pair of 1,700km round trips to Sault Ste. Marie, a pair of 1,200km trips to Saginaw and three 1,000km trips to Erie.
Plus the 25,200km they put on the car just driving back-and-forth to Guelph’s 45 home games through the regular season and playoffs.
Venturing into enemy territory can be a little precarious, especially when opposing fans are yelling at your son.
But there haven’t been too many problems with opposing fans, despite the “POPOVICH” jerseys they sport.
There have been a couple of remarks, even from Storm fans who, knowing who they were, made negative comments to them about Anthony.
But they proudly wear their son's jersey.
“One of the reasons we decided to wear the jerseys was because if we’re not proud of our son, then who is?” Nancy says.
She says one of the things she and her husband enjoy the most is the post-game chats, even if they are brief ones after road games.
Sometimes he doesn’t talk about the game at all.
“I think he appreciates it,” Nancy says.
“The best part is that we get to be there as our son chases his dreams.
“He has goals, just like all the boys on the team do,” Nancy says. “I’m beyond proud. He’s achieved much … but he’s not done yet.”