How much do you like your favourite hockey team? No matter what your answer is, it’s likely not more than Snow Lake’s own Davey Roberts.
Roberts had a chance to see his favourite NHL club, the Colorado Avalanche, play a home game in Denver against the Edmonton Oilers Nov. 27 - right behind the penalty box. Earlier in November, Roberts whet his appetite by heading to an Avs road game in Winnipeg, making it onto television broadcasts with a passionate ‘goal signal’ celebration from the steps after a Colorado goal, complete with his jersey and toque with viking horns. Emboldened by a taste of fame, Roberts called into his job at Lalor mine Saturday and said he’d be taking more time off.
“I went into work the next day and told them, ‘I’m taking the last three days off and I’m going to Denver,” he said.
All he had to do was find a way to get from Snow Lake to Colorado – a distance of about 2,200 kilometres.
So Nov. 25, at around noon, Roberts got in his Ford F150 – he calls it the “Gravey Train” - and headed south.
Usually, if someone’s going to make a road trip that takes them through two countries, two provinces and three states, there would be some degree of prior planning. Not this one. Roberts didn’t have a change of clothes or a backup plan. It was just wheels, pavement and a compass set for the Rockies.
“I drove to Regina - that was, whatever, ten hours - nine with the time change,” he said.
“Then I went through Montana, Wyoming - I stopped after I got into Montana because it was really late and I’d been driving something like 16 hours. I wasn’t really tired, I could’ve kept on going, but it was so black out. I almost hit a deer. It was crazy. I had a semi coming at me, it was right on the middle of the centre line.”
Roberts took refuge at a truck stop for a short sleep, then continued south.
During the drive, Roberts was tweeting about his trip, tagging a number of hockey personalities as he posted regular text and video updates. One of the accounts that found Roberts’ missives was the official Avalanche twitter account.
“Amazing! Safe travels,” the team account tweeted at Roberts not long after he set off. During the drive, Roberts did an interview with a radio station in Edmonton, describing the odyssey to a crew of likely confused Albertans.
Roberts’ trip went from big sky country to the Rocky Mountains, finding out that Google Maps didn’t work on remote mountain roads. Luckily for Roberts, he had an ace in the hole.
“My old man, he actually made me pack this gigantic 1999 North American road atlas,” he said.
“I was pretty skeptical - I thought ‘I got Google Maps here, how could that fail me?’ You never know where your phone’s not going to work.”
After driving about an hour out of the way, Roberts got back on track, stopping once more at Wheatland, Wyoming Nov. 26 right as snow started to hit.
“The roads, it’s not like they’re really bad, it’s just that there’s really bad drivers on them,” said Roberts.
He made his arrival in Denver shortly before noon, after having travelled for nearly two days.
At the home of the Avs, the Pepsi Center, Roberts showed up and got in touch with members of the team’s broadcast crew - he had tagged some members of the team’s play-by-play staff in his updates from the road.
Roberts was interviewed during the game by the Avalanche TV broadcast crew and was featured in TSN Sportscentre’s highlight package for the game – complete with his jersey and knit viking hat.
“I kept on tagging them [TSN] - I think they may have blocked me,” Roberts joked.
Roberts’ team gave him good reason to make the trip, beating Connor McDavid and the Oilers 4-1.
To add to the occasion, the Avs’ broadcast crew cut to Roberts’ reaction after some of the goals, jumping into the nearby stairway to show off some dance moves.
“The game was unreal. There are truly passionate fans down here in Denver,” he said.
“The arena is awesome, comfortable seats - though I didn’t sit much.”
Roberts didn’t come home right after the game, choosing to stay for American Thanksgiving at an Airbnb. Fully stuffed with turkey, Roberts went back to the Pepsi Center again Nov. 30 for a second game before coming home - another win, this time a 7-3 victory over Chicago.
According to his revised return travel plan, Roberts will take the “Gravey Train” back home through Nebraska and the Dakotas, stopping at Mount Rushmore and crossing the border into Manitoba before making a straight shot back north. His estimated time of arrival was sometime Dec. 4.
While he’ll soon return back to his normal shift at Lalor, Roberts said he’s been energized by the trip and the treatment he received south of the border.
“I would definitely do it again. This drive was actually very inspirational to me,” he said.
“It inspired me to want to drive everywhere in North America. If I had the means to do it, I’d just drive around following the team, cheering hard for them and seeing new places. That’s my real dream here.”