January 2, 2014 11:40 am
Updated: January 3, 2014 10:12 am

Sports reporter endures epic nightmare trip to cover Winnipeg Jets

Twitter user Ian Gollert tweeted this image at Mike Harrington during his epic journey to Winnipeg for a Jets-Sabres hockey game. Harrington's face replaces Steve Martin on a poster for the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles, starring John Candy.

Ian Gollert illustration using Hughes Entertainment / Paramount Pictures image

WINNIPEG — A Buffalo sports journalist is back on track after what he calls the worst travel experience in 25 years of covering sports.

“It’s definitely been a John Candy Planes, Trains and Automobiles saga,” Buffalo News reporter Mike Harrington told Global News on Tuesday morning after an epic 28-hour trip to Winnipeg and an equally difficult trip out.

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Global News

The cold seemed to do in the trip as United Airlines cancelled flights to and from Winnipeg and “bathrooms on planes were freezing,” Harrington said. Cancelled flights meant his trip from Buffalo took a detour all the way to Vancouver and back to Winnipeg.

The trip home turned into another nightmare as the cold continued and flights were cancelled again.

In the end, the only escape was a car rental and a drive to Minneapolis – and it took 10 minutes just to get the frozen rental vehicle open, and another 15 minutes to start it, Harrington said.

“This is absolutely the coldest weather I’ve ever experienced in my life,” he said.

Harrington tweeted his misadventures as they happened.

His nightmare began innocently enough at 8:52 a.m. on Dec. 30 with a tweet, complete with the obligatory weather complaint, about the fact that he was travelling to Winnipeg for the New Year’s Eve Jets-Sabres game:

Trouble started at the O’Hare Airport in Chicago:

Then came another comment on the lovely Winnipeg weather:

He wasn’t receiving information about flight changes because United Airlines was calling his Buffalo home:

At 3:53 p.m., he shared this update:

And at 5:01 p.m.:

But instead of spending the night in Chicago, he was told he’d have to fly to Vancouver that night in order to catch a morning flight to Winnipeg for the New Year’s Eve game — no flights out of O’Hare Airport were going to get him to the ‘Peg in time.

Of course, the flight to Vancouver was delayed 90 minutes when a passenger had to be removed after he vomited on two others in first class. His removal necessitated a half-hour search for his luggage, as well. Here’s Harrington’s 3:21 a.m. tweet:

After a brief rest, he tweeted at 9:12 a.m.:

But the plane arrived and his hopes rose:

Of course, then there’s the weather …

He successfully boarded and at 1:37 p.m. tweeted:

And then at 1:58 p.m., more than 29 hours after that first tweet, he finally saw the Jets. Sort of.

A follower chimed in with an appropriately Photoshopped image:

The quest for the Peg ended in time to cover the Sabres’ 3-0 loss to the Jets … but the next morning the quest to LEAVE Winnipeg began.

It started off innocently enough at 6:57 a.m. on New Year’s Day:

Things looked hopeful, though Harrington was still complaining about the weather:

But then it was time to call in John Candy:

And George Costanza:

Finally Harrington gave up on planes altogether:

The car successfully took him into his home country:

And finally, with a mid-journey stop to interview Ryan Miller about making the U.S. Olympic squad, he reached his destination:

Despite the travel nightmare, though, Harrington said he enjoys visiting Winnipeg.

“I love the MTS Centre, the fan base, the atmosphere,” he said on Thursday morning. “The people in Winnipeg have a good sense of humour about themselves.”

He had to take a final shot, though – one sure to spark sympathy from the many Winnipeggers driving rutted, ice-covered streets.

“Who plows your roads?”

You can read Harrington’s own account of the trip at the Buffalo News website.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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