Kamloops Blazers' super fan plans to attend every game this season, home and away

Rob Tommasini has logged 10,259 kilometres through 49 games and followed the team to Saskatchewan and Manitoba

Rob Tommasini is driving his way into the Kamloops Blazers’ fandom hall of fame.

The 28-year-old super fan has been to every one of the Western Hockey League club’s games this season — home and away, exhibition and regular season — including the East Division road swing in December, with stops in Brandon, Winnipeg, Moose Jaw, Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert.

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“I thought this is going to be our year, so I want to go all out,” said Tommasini, who spoke to KTW on the Sandman Centre concourse on Wednesday while the Blazers practised. “That’s why I’m doing it. I have a feeling they’ll make it to the final.”

Tommasini, who works at Rivershore Estates and Golf Links and Lee’s Music, will follow the team for the rest of this campaign, with aspirations to park in Kelowna for the Memorial Cup in May.

His Mazda 3.5, scheduled for its fourth oil change since the summer, has logged 10,259 kilometres and stopped in umpteen Fatburger drive-thrus along the way. Tommasini loves those Hawaiian burgers.

Robert Tommasini
Robert Tommasini’s ticket collection is growing. - Dave Eagles/KTW

All but three of Kamloops’ 25 road games to date have been played on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, the schedule making it a tad easier for him to get time off work.

The Saskatchewan and Manitoba haul was by far the longest, with games stretching from Dec. 6 to Dec. 14. That trip included the road warrior’s first NFL experience, a detour to a regular-season tilt featuring the hometown Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions

Winter weather has made for testy driving.

Freezing rain en route to Winnipeg from Brandon caused, “a whole bunch of pileups on the side of the road,” Tommasini said. “All the trucks were in the ditch. It was just a whole gong show going to Winnipeg.”

Tommasini said a semi-truck nearly ran him off the road during a Spokane snowstorm.

“I couldn’t see anything ahead,” he said. “Then I got stuck by the border because the Grand Forks one was closed. And I also hit a deer on the way home from Prince George because of freezing rain. They were sitting there. I was like, ‘Oh, deer! I should slow down.’ All of a sudden, this deer ran into my car. I have the dent to prove it!”

And that schmozzle last Saturday with the Vancouver Giants, whose bus was stuck on the Coquihalla when the game against the Blazers was supposed to start at Sandman Centre? Tommasini was also caught in that freezing-rain, snowy-mess gridlock. He had watched Kamloops play Vancouver in Langley the night before and was on his way home for the rematch.

The Grand Forks border closure, which forced Tommasini to reroute, was not his only customs-related delay. He was pulled in and questioned on his way to Everett, the officers suspicious of his reason for entry to the U.S.

“I was like, ‘Oh, God. What did I do?’ Tommasini said. “I’m just going to watch a game at Angel of the Winds Arena. It’s named after a casino. They were saying I was going to gamble.’”

Tommasini got out of that jackpot and made it to the rink with seconds to spare before puck-drop.

He was also late to a Blazers-Royals game in Victoria, but he can be excused. High winds led to the cancellation of a sailing to Victoria, so the Blazer Backer hopped a ferry to Nanaimo and drove south to the B.C. capital, arriving at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in the second period.

The stories do not end there.

Tommasini was in Prince George on Jan. 25, when the Blazers and Cougars wrapped their two-game set at the CN Centre. Kamloops forward Brodi Stuart’s stick was whacked out of his hand and the twig flew into the stands, landing on Tommasini’s lap.

“I was like, ‘Oh, my God. I got Brodi Stuart’s stick!” Tommasini said, noting a marriage took place on the ice during an intermission of the same game. “Everyone is like, ‘Holy crap!’”

Rink attendants took the stick and gave Tommasini a Cougars’ hat. Trade value was boosted when the Blazers pitched in a stick and a practice jersey.

“I’m really happy about that,” said Tommasini, who was rocking the Cougars’ hat and a Blazers’ jersey during the interview. “I was so disappointed because we lost the game.”

The souvenirs contribute to an ever-growing stockpile, which includes ticket stubs and scoresheets from this season’s gauntlet.

Tommasini, who has been to every barn on the Dub circuit, owns jerseys of all 22 WHL teams — and he is not shy about wearing them inside Sandman Centre.

He usually sports visiting team garb during Blazers’ home games. On occasion, he dons prized sweaters signed by former Quebec and Ontario league greats.

“I’m a big WHL supporter, but I’m also a CHL supporter," Tommasini said. "I have jerseys from Oshawa and Saint John. Huberdeau signed that one. Sarnia Sting. Stamkos signed it. Virtanen, Zary, Fleury from Red Deer, Reinhart from Edmonton, Barzal from Seattle.”

Fans at Sandman Centre who chirp that guy wearing the away jersey really don’t know who they’re beaking.

Anyone who sits near Section L, Row 1, Seat 1 knows exactly who he is — Tommasini said he has not missed a home game in at least 15 years.

“I get a lot of chirps at the away games,” Tommasini said. “I always wear a Blazers’ jersey on the road.”

Bronson Maschmeyer may be interested to hear about one of Tommasini’s keepsakes.

He claims to own the Game 6 puck, rubber the Blazers’ D-man fired into the net late in the third period to cull the visiting Winterhawks 7-6 on April 16, 2012, in one of the most famous games in club history.

“I do have it. The rink attendant, she grabbed it and chucked it to me,” Tommasini said. “I’m like, ‘OK, I’m taking this home.’ I’ve been trying to get Maschmeyer to sign it for a while, but I don’t think that’s possible. He’s somewhere else.”

Parents helped Tommasini take the East Division swing, a welcome early Christmas gift for the accomplished Airbnb hopper.

“Everything else is on my own dime,” Tommasini said. “I don’t think about the money. It’s more about hockey. I love the team because of the jersey colours, the history and all the championships. Every time I walk into one of the arenas, I always see Franklin and Centazzo sitting on the bench. I’m waving at them and they’re like, ‘Oh, my God. He’s here again.’”

The hockey nut has attended 49 regular-season games and seven exhibition tilts this season.

Tommasini has logged 231 driving hours, that total not including this weekend’s foray to Vancouver Island to watch the Blazers play the Royals on Friday and Saturday and the stop in Langley on Sunday for the Vancouver-Kamloops matchup.

He almost always travels alone, often listening to music, sometimes in silence, thinking about the ultimate destination.

“The only goal left is winning the championship,” Tommasini said. “And I just hope the Blazers win it this year. They have the team for it. If they work hard, I think they can actually pull it off.

“I love every WHL team and I love the CHL and I’m going to support it until I pretty much die.”

CARPOOL CONVERSATION

Two Blazers — 21-year-old captain Zane Franklin and 17-year-old rookie Caedan Bankier — joined KTW and Tommasini for a quick spin in his Mazda.
Find snippets of the conversation below.

(OUTSIDE CAR, SANDMAN CENTRE PARKING LOT)

KTW: Robert, what can you tell us about your whip?
TOMMASINI: It’s a [2013] Mazda 3.5 and it’s done me a lot of justice and it’s got me around to every away game this season and I haven’t killed myself yet. I hit one deer on the way back from PG.
FRANKLIN: This is what you’d consider the No. 1 Blazer fan. It’s good. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Hopefully, we can get out of the parking lot here without getting stuck.
BANKIER: I trust him. The only sketchy part will be trying to get out of Sandman Centre.
KTW: Yeah. It’s snowing pretty bad out right now. Zane, you’re from Marwayne, Alberta. What’s the
stereotypical vehicle for someone from Marwayne?
FRANKLIN:  A lot of oil money in Alberta. Or there was anyway. Your jacked-up, loud trucks.
KTW: Caedan. You were born in White Rock, so I’m picturing a Lexus, for sure. But then you moved to Cloverdale. Did you take a chuckwagon to the rink with your parents?
BANKIER: No (chuckles).
KTW: Robert, how many kilometres have you put on this bad boy?
TOMMASINI: 10,500.
KTW: OK. Let’s get in.

(INSIDE CAR)

KTW: Robert, give us your breakdown of Zane and Caedan’s games. You’ve seen them more than me.
TOMMASINI: Zane, he’s a sniper. He’s frickin’ awesome and he’s up there with Beckman and Hamblin in scoring. You’ve got to get more points! You can’t let them get any further. He’s [Caedan] going to be in the CHL Prospects Game next year. I’m calling it right now.
FRANKLIN: We’ve got the winter tires on. We’re good to go.
KTW: Robert, you have a lot of time driving alone in this vehicle. What do you think about?
TOMMASINI: Hopefully, the Blazers kick the shit out of the team. Sorry for swearing.
FRANKLIN: Where are we going?
BANKIER: Are we doing the Tour de Kamloops? We’ve got to be safe here.
KTW: Have you done anything like this before, Zane?
FRANKLIN: This is really the stuff I like to do. Get your name out there. The public will like you a little more after this. It’s good publicity.
KTW: Did you knows fans like this existed?
BANKIER: No. When I got here, they said there were some very passionate fans in Kamloops. I thought, ‘Oh, I bet they love their Blazers.’ I didn’t think they’d love them this much and it’s awesome.
KTW: Zane, what do you usually listen to when you’re driving?
FRANKLIN: I’m all over the spectrum. Some days, you get the country feels or hip-hop. I’m a big podcast guy. Spittin’ Chiclets and any comedy ones.
KTW: Caedan, you’re 17. Do you have a licence?
BANKIER: I do not have a licence. I have my L. I do not get to choose the music in the car when we’re driving. My billet bro, Josh Pillar, is usually driving me around. He’s a big variety guy. He really likes his rap. I’m not a big rap guy, but I can’t say much because I’m in the passenger seat.
KTW: A lot of people are talking that maybe there is a championship run in store. What’s it like to land on a team at this stage of your career, Caedan?
BANKIER: I’m super fortunate because I learn a lot from the older guys like Zane and Max. All the young guys, we’re getting shown the way and hopefully we carry it on for another five years.
KTW: Zane, we just made a left turn. How do you think Robert did?
FRANKLIN: I seen the signal, so I think we passed. I can’t really judge him, though. I did fail a driver’s licence test. I think I just overall was not very good and then I got in an accident exactly a month after I got my licence. I’m not the guy to be critiquing.
KTW: If we were going to do carpool karaoke, how is your singing voice?
BANKIER. Singing voice is not good at all, but I could sign any song.
FRANKLIN: My pipes are non-existent. You know when you have to do those rookie initiations and sing on the bus, I was always last place, but Big and Rich, Save a Horse Ride A Cowboy, that was my go-to.
KTW: Do you care to give us a verse?
FRANKLIN. No, we’ve got nothing in store for you guys.
BANKIER: I could nail Happy Birthday. If you get it started, maybe I’ll jump in.
FRANKLIN. No. I ain’t doing it.
KTW: If I start, you better join in.
(Failed version of Happy Birthday ensues)
TOMMASINI: The weather has been pretty hectic this year compared to last year. Do you guys remember the Spokane drive back?
FRANKLIN: Yeah. The bus drivers I’ve had have all done a great job. I tend to sleep through a lot of it.
KTW: Who’s biggest snorer on the bus?
BANKIER: It’s Zane.
FRANKLIN: I used to be so much worse. My first year in Lethbridge, I had a terrible broken nose. I could not breathe to save my life. I got surgery on it and I’m good to go, or thought I was.
KTW: Robert, you said you’ve spent three to five grand following these guys around. Why do you do it?
TOMMASINI: Because our team is so frickin’ awesome this year. That’s why! It’s like the best team we’ve had in forever.
KTW: Rob, the Kelowna brawl game, you were there.
TOMMASINI: It just shows the Kelowna players are just weak. It shows how great the Blazers are. After so many years of Kelowna beating us, it’s great that we’re beating them. It’s great revenge.
KTW: We’re getting back to our destination here. Caedan, if this was a driving test, would you give him [Rob] his licence?
BANKIER: I would give him his licence. He made a great signal turn. We haven’t crashed. That’s always a bonus and it looks like we’re going to make it back.
KTW: Zane, any demerits?
FRANKLIN: I haven’t been paying too much attention. I’m just enjoying this. This made my day.
KTW: We’re almost on Mark Recchi Way. Final thoughts?
(Tommasini gets honked at before making right onto Mark Recchi Way off of the Red Bridge)
FRANKLIN: Oh, we’re getting honked at!
BANKIER: Might lose the licence here. Should I give him the finger?
TOMMASINI: He was there first at the stop sign, so …
FRANKLIN: This has been great. This year’s been lots of fun. It’s great to see and I think it’s going to be a long one if we keep it going.
TOMMASINI: I’m hoping the boys bring us a championship. I’m going to have a fun playoff ride this year. Yeah, I hope the best for everyone.

© Kamloops This Week

 


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