Bikers for BGSU

When the puck drops, the Hofferts are there

Bikers for BGSU

By Matt Markey

The question posed to Karen Hoffert is a logical one. While following the Falcon hockey team to distant rinks across the continent with her husband, and all decked out in her orange-on-orange ensemble, she is often asked which one of the players is her son.

“All of them,” Karen replies.

The Falcons were informally adopted by the Hofferts a long time ago, and the relationship has done nothing but grow stronger. Over the past nearly 30 years, the couple has missed only about a dozen BG hockey games—home and away. In Ohio, Minnesota, Michigan, Alabama or Alaska, when the puck drops, the Hofferts are in the building.

“In our lives, hockey trumps everything,” Bill Hoffert said. “If there’s a BG hockey game someplace, we are likely there.”

Their travels following the Falcons this past season included attending the back-to-back series at Alabama-Huntsville and against Clarkson in Potsdam, N.Y. They covered all of those miles with their preferred mode of travel, a Honda Gold Wing motorcycle, following the Blue Ridge Parkway in the week between the two series.

“If the weather is decent, we like to take the bike,” Bill said. “It’s a nice way to see the country and follow the Bowling Green teams.”

The Hofferts are also long-time football season ticket holders, and the motorcycle has taken them to away games as distant as the University of Idaho and at Boise State. They attend some BG men’s basketball games and are season ticket holders for women’s basketball as well, getting hooked on the Falcon women after watching them compete in the NCAA Tournament.

But it was hockey that really cemented BGSU’s connection with the Hofferts and that foundation was put in place nearly five decades ago. Bill attended BGSU for a couple of years about the time the program got started, in the late 1960s, but admitted knowing very little about the sport. A fellow from Cleveland who lived in the same duplex, and was familiar with hockey, took Bill to see a BG game.

“I remember it was fun, but I can’t say I really knew much about what was going on,” he said.

Fast-forward more than 15 years when Bill and Karen are married and both working for a company in Fremont. A trucking salesman who called on their business mentioned that he was a BGSU grad and a season ticket holder for hockey and he invited the Hofferts to a game at the Ice Arena.

“It was the season after BG had just won the national championship and the place was packed and it was jumping,” Bill said. “The excitement was without end.”

The Hofferts attended a few more games that year and then got season tickets for the following year, and have kept them ever since.
 
“We enjoyed seeing just the home games for a year or so, and then we decided to go to an away game at Michigan State,” Bill said. “It was standing room only, so we got tickets and we stood, and then from somewhere behind us a beer can came sailing out towards Gary Kruzich, the Bowling Green goalie. We knew we were at a hockey game.”

After that memorable experience, the couple started exploring and going to more road games.

“We would get the schedule as soon as it came out and that’s how we used our vacation time, going to the hockey games,” said Karen, who also decorates an all-Falcon Christmas tree each year.

“We would take vacation days on Fridays so we could make the trips to the away games. And what was left was our real vacation, but sometimes there wasn’t much left.”

For a while they attended every Falcon hockey game except the series in Alaska, but on those weekends they stayed connected with the team as best they could, following the games on a radio station in Fostoria that carried BGSU sports at the time.

 “It had very low power and we had trouble hearing the games,” Bill said. “So we ended up driving to Fostoria, buying a pizza, and then sitting in the car in the parking lot so we could listen to the games.”

That long distance phase of the relationship didn’t last long, so the Hofferts started following the team to Alaska, too.

“In Fairbanks in the middle of the winter, the sun would rise at 11 and go down at 2 in the afternoon,” Bill said. “It was almost an out-of-body experience.”

The Hofferts retired about a year ago and they plan to include Falcon baseball games in their travel schedule this spring. If the weather is right, they will make the trip from their home in Tiffin on the motorcycle.

Their “regular” vacations usually include the bike, but hockey seems to be omnipresent for them. The couple has attended the Frozen Four for more than 25 years, and while on a motorcycle tour around Lake Superior one summer, they stopped at a museum in Thunder Bay, Ontario, where the mother of one of the former BGSU hockey players worked.

“That’s another nice thing about going on the road with the team, you get to meet a lot of the parents and see what nice people they are,” Karen said. “You make friendships with the players and their families that last long after they graduate.”

The Hofferts contend that it was the people they encountered that attracted them to BGSU initially, and it is the people that keep them coming back to as many Falcon sporting events as possible. At the Ice Arena, Karen often sits next to BGSU President Mary Ellen Mazey, who is a regular fixture at the Falcon games.

“We saw right away that Bowling Green is a pretty welcoming place, as a community and as a school,” Bill said. “And Bowling Green seemed like just the right size, so we started going to games and then it all kind of blended in with our motorcycle activities, merging the two things we enjoy so much. We have always felt welcome there.”

The Hofferts said they have really enjoyed witnessing “a steady progression” with the hockey program under the direction of fifth-year head coach Chris Bergeron, as BGSU pushed back into the national rankings this season and came very close to landing a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

“In hockey and in athletics overall, they are in the best place that I have ever seen them, from the top down,” Bill said. “They have very good people in place there at BGSU and I think they are doing a great job. We are seeing new things from them all of the time.”