It’s been 30 days since Lake Side Buoys pair Steve Hemphill and Ian Irving embarked on their cross-country motorcycle tour of the Canadian Premier League’s first full month. With five provinces, six stadiums, and almost 5,000 kilometres behind them, all that remains for them now is a trip to Nova Scotia, to watch their beloved Pacific FC take on HFX Wanderers FC on Saturday.
Scrolling through Hemphill’s Twitter feed (@BigCountryFooty) is like a journey through Canadian soccer support by itself. He and Irving have documented all six CPL games they’ve seen (one in every city), and the encounters they’ve had with other supporters all over the country.
From witnessing José Escalante’s free-kick goal from right behind the net at Spruce Meadows, to losing (and recovering) a Lake Side Buoys flag in Winnipeg, to braving the downpour at York Lions Stadium last Saturday, they’ve seen a lot over the past few weeks.
“(We’ve enjoyed) seeing the different stadiums and the different approaches teams have taken,” Hemphill said, chatting with CanPL.ca while making a pit stop near the Ontario-Québec border. “People are so proud of their team, they’re so proud of this league. They’re excited about the idea that it’s a Canadian national soccer league.”
Wednesday night’s Forge FC-FC Edmonton match fresh in his mind, Hemphill fondly recalled the greeting they received from local fans. Having lived in Hamilton, the trip to Tim Hortons Field was one he had his eye on entering the journey.
“We went in the supporters’ section there with the Barton St. Battalion guys, got a really friendly reception from them,” he said. “A number of people came up and said, ‘Hi, how are you, we heard about your trip and love it,’ so that was a lot of fun.”
Hemphill and Irving even had a visit in the stands from Forge FC owner Bob Young, who told them he’d heard about their road trip and wanted to hear the full story.
That they were as far as Québec by midday on Thursday, after the game in Hamilton on Wednesday night, shows how little time Hemphill and Irving have wasted in their cross-Canada journey.
Of course, the faster they get to their next destination, the more time they’ll be able to spend with supporters in each city. Despite supporting an opposing team in Pacific FC, the duo have been greeted with open arms at every juncture.
“We’ve had a very typically Canadian response,” Hemphill said. “Very warm and positive everywhere we’ve gone, very welcoming. We hear Halifax is no different so we’re looking forward to that.”
Matches they’ve attended:
- May 1st: Pacific FC 1-2 Valour FC
- May 8th: Cavalry FC 1-0 Valour FC
- May 12th: FC Edmonton 0-0 Pacific FC
- May 16th: Valour FC 1-0 HFX Wanderers FC
- May 25th: York9 FC 0-2 Forge FC
- May 29th: Forge FC 2-0 York9 FC
The duo hasn’t exactly been a good luck charm on this trip, either for home sides or for Pacific. Home teams are 3-2-1, and Pacific haven’t managed to win either of the times Hemphill and Irving have seen them on their journey. Their hometown club will have a chance to right that wrong on Saturday, in Halifax, though.
Asked if he has a favourite from the six CPL venues he’s seen so far, Hemphill was unable to choose. He cited Pacific FC’s intimate setting at Westhills Stadium, and the historic feel of FC Edmonton’s Clarke Stadium.
“Spruce Meadows in Calgary had a great grass field,” he added. “It looked like a beautiful surface for the players to play on.”
Hemphill also mentioned the daunting scale of larger venues like Valour’s Investors Group Field and Forge’s Tim Hortons Stadium, and he was thankful for York Lions Stadium’s easy accessibility in the GTA.
Now, it’s full steam ahead to Halifax.
“A nice way to wrap it up is to see Pacific play by the Atlantic,” Hemphill said.
Only once they reach their final destination will this road trip be a truly coast-to-coast adventure.