Near and far, these Memorial Cup fans will travel anywhere for the tournament

There are hockey fans and there are Memorial Cup hockey fans. And then there's Mike Caldwell, the uber fan who attends Memorial Cup games all over the continent and a group called the Junior Hockey Junkies who do the same.

It's all about the love of hockey and friendships spawned by the sport.

To make it to this year's Memorial Cup, Caldwell spent seven days on the road, driving from Portland, Ore., to Halifax — a 6,400-kilometre trek. This is his ninth Memorial Cup.

"This is the best major junior hockey that exists, right here," he said. "You can watch it on TV, but it's not the same."

His grandson, Gabriel Caldwell, 14, flew to Halifax to be with him. He couldn't take a week or two off school for this road trip. It is his second Memorial Cup. The two last attended a Memorial Cup together in Quebec City in 2015.

CBC

Caldwell said he can't count how many hockey games he's attended with his grandson.

"He's been to every arena in the Western conference of the WHL. Him and I started travelling together when he was four," Caldwell said.

"I've been to every WHL arena there is. My record is 127 games in a year."

He said when he found out the Memorial Cup was in Halifax, he wasn't deterred.

"I thought, 'Cool, I've never been there.' You've got the best hockey. Canadians are the best people, I think," Caldwell said.

'Whoa, that's really far'

Gabriel Caldwell was perplexed by the destination.

"I didn't even know where Halifax was," he said. "When he told me it was northeast of New York, I thought, 'Whoa, that's really far.'"

But he was game to make the trip and have another memorable experience with his granddad.

"He's a lot of fun and I love seeing hockey, [it] is my favourite sport. I play hockey," Gabriel Caldwell said.

"It's very entertaining for me, just going across the country with him. I love him. And it's just a lot of fun."

Pit stops for oxygen tank refills

In addition to fuelling up his truck, Caldwell has to make scheduled stops to fill his oxygen tank that helps him with his breathing difficulties. 

But he said it's all worth it.

"Gabriel and I have shared so much together. You see things that you want to share with someone and Gabriel is just the guy to do it with," he said.

For B.C.'s Jim LeClair, this is his 20th Memorial Cup. The first one he attended was when Halifax last hosted the event in 2000.

"I like seeing the people, we see our friends every year," he said. "The hockey's fantastic. We just cheer for everybody and we get to come and see a wonderful city like Halifax."

CBC

LeClair is a member of a group called the Junior Hockey Junkies. Since 1999, members of this group have travelled to each Memorial Cup. The founders are four Calgary Hitmen season ticket holders, according to the Junkies' website.

Keith Richard, dressed in a colourful suit rivalling hockey commentator Don Cherry, is attending his 12th Memorial Cup game. He's been a Junkies member since 2000, but the Cole Harbour, N.S., resident didn't have to travel far for this year's tournament.

"It's good Canadian kids out there. Let's go, some old-time hockey!" he said.

MORE TOP STORIES