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Road To Isobel: Part 1

By Linda Groff-Mroz, 04/13/17, 10:00AM EDT

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Here's an inside look at the Buffalo Beauts Isobel Cup Championship weekend from the way Assistant GM and Director of Gameday Operations, Linda Groff-Mroz, experienced it.

Now that the dust has settled and a week has gone by, I think I am finally ready to talk about the road to the Isobel Cup final!  That’s right sports fans, the Buffalo Beauts brought home a championship to the city of Buffalo – yes, I know we are not the first professional team to do so, but we ARE the first hockey team in Buffalo to do so…so come on Sabres. It’s your turn.

This was one of the hardest trips to plan for and let me tell you, my anxiety and stress levels went through the roof.  Monday morning (March 13, to be exact) I sent an email to our bus company with our anticipated itinerary.  Moments later I received a phone call letting me know that they did not have a single bus for us because of the NCAA tournament that was in town.  “Wait, what?!?!?!”  They could have had a bus for us if teams were losing, but I needed to get this set in stone and like NOW!  I spent the next three days calling bus companies and explaining the variables, needless to say, it was a headache.  BUT, Wednesday, I received a text message from Muni about a company he contacted for me (thanks Craig!) and the sales person would be calling me shortly.  Sure enough, there was the phone, ringing my Halloween theme and BOOM! bus booked.  The best part, the company was so flexible…

Here is the scenario I had to explain – We need to leave by Thursday at 4pm, drive to New Jersey and stay overnight.  We play New York Friday at 7:30pm, if we win, we stay in New Jersey another night and then head to UMASS Lowell Saturday morning at 10:30am.  Stay in Boston over night and then play Boston for the cup on Sunday at 6pm, after the game we load up and head back to Buffalo.  Now, if we lose on Friday, we will load up and head back to Buffalo.  So if we are able to book the bus from Thursday to Monday morning that would be fantastic, also, if we lose Friday and have to head back home, would be reimbursed for hours/money not used.  

Do you see my headache?  Bedour Tours was amazing, they were very accommodating and the driver, Les, said he only drives champions, so we had to win, otherwise we would have to find another ride home.  I liked his sense of humor immediately.  

OK…so…crisis averted. We have transportation!  Now, just to double check on the hotels and make sure they are aware of the situation as well.

Sent emails to both New Jersey and Boston explaining the situations, sent in our meal requests for breakfast and pregame…New Jersey called and told me that no matter what we would need to check out Friday, and if we lose, just call and let them know…but if we win, I needed to call so they could check us back into our rooms.  I was ok with that; we had a place to stay and transportation.

OK, now that the Beauts are all taken care of, now I had to work on my own children, after all, I would be leaving Thursday afternoon and would not be home until Monday, God willing.  Next phone call was to the boys’ dad, letting him know what was going on and make sure he was on the same page.  He was made well aware of this before, but just needed to clear up a few of the minor details and make sure he knew where and when to snag the boys after school.  Next, MEMA – she needed to get Cooper from school because I was working at Custom Edge until 3pm Thursday, I went home afterwards to say good bye to the boys and then Mema loaded them up and headed to her house where their dad would grab them.  The boys didn’t have school on St. Patrick’s Day, so Papa had to be at our house by 8:30am for the boys to be dropped off, Mema picked them up at 11am and headed back to her house.  Yes, I planned all of it and my parents were great sports for it and the boys were great too, as well as their dad.  It really helps having such a great support system set in place – everyone needs to play together and be on the same page, so thank you to my mum and dad for their love and support…thank you to my ex-husband for being flexible with the schedule and understanding…but most of all, thank you to my boys, you may not completely understand right now, but I want to make both of you proud for doing a great job, I know it has not been easy when I’m on the road, but when I come home and your wrap your arms tight around me, I hope you learn that your dreams can come true if you work hard at it and I will be the support system for you until the day I die, I love you Riley (Pipes) and I love you Cooper (Cujo), thank you.

FRIDAY March 17th – Game day vs the New York Riveters: We had a morning skate (just a light one) to review some plays, get our bus legs out of our system, and just start the morning off right.  I headed over to the rink to take care of the jerseys and socks for the game, any skates that needed to be done, whatever else that needed to get done for the game.  I headed back to the hotel and did some work for coaching and just killed some time before having to head to team meal and then back to the rink.

I packed up all my gear and headed down to the bus, loaded my stuff and off to the rink.  There were about 6 pairs of skates that needed to get done, so luckily there is a Blademaster machine in the rink. I loaded all the skates up on a stick and walked them to the pro shop.  The guys in the shop usually let me sharpen the skates, but I had so much other stuff to do, they said they would take care of the skates.  I finished up my last minute stuff and grabbed all the skates, headed through the mob of people in the lobby and got ready to do my in game stats for the coaches.

The Game: I could not sit still. My heart was racing the entire game, but when those final 15 seconds were counting down, it felt like an eternity.  Seconds felt like minutes and then that final buzzer went off, I screamed so loud, forgot I went live on Facebook…but the celebration was outstanding.  Immediately, I ran down the stairs into the coaches’ locker room and called the hotel to let them know we were coming back, so please have our keys ready to go.  I needed to find out if we could keep our equipment at the rink and when they informed us we needed to move out, I started to pack everything up and loaded the bus.  I grabbed my bag, pillow and Chewie and ran to the hotel, grabbed my key, dropped my stuff off in my room and ran back to the rink.  I finished packing up stuff on the bus, grabbed the food and cooler and walked back to the hotel.  I made sure that we were able to use the room we have breakfast in for the girls to lay out their equipment to dry out, unloaded what was left in the cooler into the mini fridge and went back to my room.  I was exhausted, climbed into bed after I washed the day off my face and went to sleep.

Part 2 coming soon!