It was late March and Chicago was in Pittsburgh to face the Penguins. Jason Comyn arrived at the arena early to watch his beloved Blackhawks warm up, just as he’d done every game he’d gone to since October.
Patrick Sharp was gliding toward him with his stick on his knees and saw Comyn talking with an attractive woman in the stands. Sharp had first noticed the travelling Hawks superfan back in October when Comyn was just beginning his epic road trip. Since then, Comyn would usually rap on the glass during the warmup, and Sharp would respond with a head nod. When Comyn saw Sharp coming toward him in Pittsburgh, he flashed him a sly look from the stands, and Sharp responded in kind, which caught the woman’s attention. “Did he just wink at you?” she said. Indeed he did. That’s the kind of connection a fan can make with a player after following his favorite team around for a season.
Fans range from casual to crazy. Comyn is neither, but let’s place him toward the latter end of the spectrum, since he’s definitely a diehard. After all, it takes a dedicated fan to trail a team around the continent for nearly nine months. Comyn has never crunched the miles he put on his car or the amount of zeroes he depleted from his savings, but his 2013 Ford Focus ST has more than 100,000 miles on the odometer, despite being just more than a year old, and the money he spent on tickets, hotels, food, etc., would have easily bought him some shiny new white-collar wheels.
“I joke around with people and say, ‘Well, it didn’t cost me more than a new Mercedes,’ ”Comyn said. “And then usually people ask, ‘Well, which class?’ ” Comyn didn’t win the lottery. He’s just a hardcore Hawks fan who had the perfect storm of circumstances, savings and freedom to go on the road trip of a lifetime. His journey started out in North Carolina, of all places, where Comyn was celebrating his 39th birthday in August 2013. He was in Raleigh driving past the RBC Center when it suddenly dawned on him. “I said, ‘You know what? I can’t believe I’ve never seen a hockey game here,’ ” Comyn said. “So then I got to thinking, ‘Well, there’s a lot of places I hadn’t seen.’ And then, the way my summer had gone, I said, ‘You know what? This year is going to be perfect. I’ll never get a better opportunity to do this.’ ” Earlier that summer, a plan to start a small business had fallen through for Comyn, so he had no job to tie him down. He also had some substantial savings he could burn, so finances weren’t a problem. And as a single guy with no kids, he had the freedom to pick up and leave with no one’s permission. Last season, from Oct. 9 to May 26, Comyn followed his Hawks through every NHL city (40 games in total, including 10 playoff games) and somehow managed to squeeze in a visit to every American League rink as well. He drove to all but two arenas on his trip, which took him through 47 states and six provinces. His Hawks were always the main attraction, but it wasn’t all hockey, all the time. Comyn watched some NASCAR races, toured seven halls of fame, went to plenty of museums and caught up with several friends along the way. His car held up the entire time, and he only had to fly to two cities, Detroit and St. John’s, to complete the NHL and AHL arena loops. Getting tickets was hassle-free, too. He occasionally used StubHub or scalpers, but most of the time he’d just buy a ticket on game day, which was easy since he only needed a single seat. Comyn’s pre-game ritual with Sharp wasn’t the only interaction he had on his trip. During the Western Conference final, Comyn ran into a group of Blackhawks at a restaurant in Beverly Hills, including
Corey Crawford and
Johnny Oduya. Comyn, who was wearing his Hawks jersey and sporting an impressive playoff beard at the time, introduced himself as “the guy who’s touring around” with the team. That caught their attention and piqued their curiosity, and Comyn held court with guys for a while before their game that night against the Kings. After touring the NHL’s 30 arenas, Comyn ranks the United Center No. 1 (naturally), followed by the Bell Centre in Montreal, Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Rogers Arena in Vancouver and Bridgestone Arena in Nashville to round out his top five. As far as AHL barns go, Cedar Park Center, home of the Calder Cup champion Texas Stars, topped his list. His favorite game? Jan. 3, of course. That’s when Sharp had a hat trick against the New Jersey Devils. Comyn is now back in San Antonio, but he’s not done travelling to see his Hawks. After catching Chicago’s season opener in Dallas Oct. 9, he saw a trio of games when the Hawks went through Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal in late October and early November. It’s a micro reminder of his epic adventure last season. “I’d like to thank Patrick Sharp and the rest of the Blackhawks players,” Comyn said. “And all the players on all the other teams in both leagues. All the ushers, you know, staff, the fans of every place that have made me feel so welcomed in their buildings. And thank you God for inventing this great game.”