Not every college class will be filled with references to your favorite sports team. But for Phil Howlett, a professor at a college located in Belleville, Ontario, Canada, mentioning the Patriots is his way of showing off his pride for the team.
Phil, who began the Upper Canada PFC in 2014, has been cheering on the team since the '70s and has made it his mission to become the biggest Patriots fan club in Canada. Currently, the group boasts about 40 members, about 20 more than when they first began.
The group has attracted members from other provinces, like a couple from Saskatchewan, who join them for tailgates and games in Foxborough.
When that couple got married, the members of the fan club truly stepped it up to show their love and support. The Upper Canada PFC members all chipped in for tickets to a Patriots game in Buffalo as a wedding present. The newlyweds changed their Vegas honeymoon plans and made their way back east to catch the Patriots take on the Bills, and when the couple said the gift was too much, Phil insisted their hospitality is just what Patriots fans do for one another.
That dedication to the team runs through the fan club as they travel from their home base in Belleville across the border to multiple games a season. Phil and his dad travel to the United States, much to the ire of some border patrolmen, to catch games or just to be around the game.
"[My dad] played in the CFL, the football league here in the '50s," Phil said. "And he enjoys the tailgate more so than the game. We've gone on two separate occasions, driven to Boston and just hung out in the parking lot for the game without tickets. It's so much fun."
Last season, the group traveled to about seven games.
"Every game is an away game for us," Phil said.
When the Patriots made it to Super Bowl LI, Phil and his wife Kim decided to head to Houston in the hopes of nabbing tickets to the big game. They hopped into their van and made the 26 hour drive to the city.
"We drove to Detroit because the air fare is stupid expensive in Canada, then down to Dallas and then drove from Dallas to Houston," Phil said. "We were there for three days. We tried to get tickets to the game and all that stuff, but we couldn't. With the Canadian dollar being 30 percent, it would have been really expensive for us for tickets."
Though they weren't able to make it into the stadium, they made the most of their Super Bowl experience and met up with members of the Houston Patriots Fans. While there, they connected with members of the Memphis Patriots Fan Club and the Nashville Patriots Fan Club.
This isn't the first time that the fan club has connected with some of Patriots Nation's most dedicated. During Week 4, Upper Canada PFC made their way to Cleveland for Tom Brady's return to the field. The weekend included a celebration for Canadian Thanksgiving with fans from across the country.
They've also connected with members from Tailgater 2000 who've adopted them into the fold after they made several regular appearances.
Phil says that the travelling bug will follow them into the upcoming season, as well 2018. When the Patriots take on the Saints in September, they may make a stop in Nashville to visit the club if they drive.
There's no denying that this Patriots fan of 40 years is dedicated to the team and one of the ways he shows it is by traveling across the border and through the United States to cheer them on. As the club continues to grow as graduated students join the ranks and word spreads, it's clear that the power of the Patriots will be felt across Canada.