7,000km, 7 matches: Lake Side Buoys duo taking month-long cross-Canada CPL tour

Seven games, seven cities, and 7,000 kilometres: For any Canadian Premier League supporter, it’s a dream cross-country trip.

Starting May 1st, two friends from Victoria, British Columbia are making the trip by motorcycle, catching a CPL game at each team’s stadium. Supporters Steve Hemphill and Ian Irving will ride from Langford out to Calgary, then Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, and Hamilton, before wrapping things up with a PFC road game in Halifax on June 1st.

“I was thinking about the idea of riding my motorcycle across Canada, and when the CPL got announced, I thought, ‘Well, that would be fun to actually be able to go see a game in each stadium,'” said Hemphill, a member of the Lake Side Buoys, Pacific FC’s supporter group. “It should be a lot of excitement in the first month … People will be just getting to know the teams and starting some of the traditions. It’s going to be fun to observe all that.”

A long-time football supporter, Hemphill moved to Canada from Scotland in his youth, where he fell in love with the game watching Celtic FC. In Canada, he lived in Montreal, before moving to Ontario for university and spending twenty years between Hamilton and Toronto, where he supported the Reds in the MLS.

“I’m looking forward to going out for pints in the pre-games with (other supporters) and going to the games,” Hemphill explained. “I lived in Hamilton a long time, so I’m excited that they got a team as well, and I’m looking forward to seeing the Barton Street Battalion and the gang there.”

Already, Hemphill said he’s been in touch with supporters in Hamilton, Edmonton, and Halifax.

The road trip schedule:

  • May 1st: Pacific FC vs Valour FC (Westhills Stadium, Langford, BC)
  • May 8th: Cavalry FC vs Valour FC (Spruce Meadows, Calgary, AB)
  • May 12th: FC Edmonton vs Pacific FC (Clarke Stadium, Edmonton, AB)
  • May 16th: Valour FC vs Forge FC (Investors Group Field, Winnipeg, MB)
  • May 25th: York9 FC vs Forge FC (York Lions Stadium, Toronto, ON)
  • May 29th: Forge FC vs FC Edmonton (Tim Hortons Field, Hamilton, ON)
  • June 1st: HFX Wanderers vs Pacific FC (Wanderers Grounds, Halifax, NS)

In the course of May, the two friends will catch three Pacific FC matches, along with three Valour FC matches and three Forge FC matches. A third friend, Ian Fellows, will join the two for the final stretch from Toronto to Halifax. Asked which dates he’s got circled on the calendar, Hemphill said, “obviously, seeing the away Pacific games.”

For Hemphill, he’s most excited to witness the team’s attacking talent both home and away.

“I always thought [Issey] Nakajima-Farran … you know, he did well for Toronto FC … sometimes, you scratch your head and try to figure out why players aren’t signed for longer,” he said. “I think he’s going to be a key player for Pacific.”

Beyond that, Hemphill’s encouraged by the league’s growth in year one.

But with a month-long road trip and a 28-match inaugural CPL season ahead of them, the two are squarely focused on next Sunday, when PFC host HFX Wanderers in the first match of either club’s history.

“I’m excited that we’ve got a good breadth of teams across the country. It’s a good start,” he said. “This is a Pan-Canadian league that is bringing in cities from coast to coast in a way that no other sport really has done in Canada … I think the organizers of the league are getting it right.”