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RPI Parents Go Extra Mile to See Sons

Picketts Fly from California to All Games

By Jon Paul Morosi

Albany Times Union, February 25, 2005

TROY - Visit Houston Field House on any wintry weekend and you'll meet proud hat-and-ribbon wearers, two by two, who traversed snowy sometimes international borders - to see their on-ice brood.

Jim and Denise Pickett resolved to attend every RPI hockey game this season. Their son, Blake, is a senior. A hardly profound commitment, you might say. But check the roster. There, beside "Pickett, Blake," beneath "Hometown," are two words worth noting.

Temecula, Calif.

More impressive than the Picketts' promise is that they've stuck to their word. Blake has been scratched 10 times this season. They haven't. The only disruption came when Jim was too sick to fly for the home weekend against Colgate and Cornell. He was told his eardrums might burst if he did. So Denise went alone. The Streak surged on.

Saturday, the Engineers celebrate Senior Night. Notwithstanding the tornadoes, rainstorms and assorted acts of God to befall their hometown in the past week, the Picketts will be there.

"It's our schedule," Jim said from home this week. "Thursday nights, we're outta here."

Other families can't come as often. Distance, money and work are always factors. Co-captain Nick Economakos of Lockport, Ill., said his parents are able to come for big weekends, such as the Big Red Freakout and Senior Night.

"They can take time off, but money's tight," Economakos said. "Plane tickets, time off work, it adds up. My dad would be here every weekend if he could."

Three seniors have parents within driving distance: Cody Wojdyla (Rome), C.J. Hanafin (Burlington, Mass.), and Matt McNeely (Almonte, Ontario). Those of the other four - Economakos, Pickett, Andrew Martin (Plano, Texas), and Vic Pereira (Abbotsford, British Columbia) - must fly.

Hanafin travels the best, to use the hockey parlance. "When we play in Boston, he's got 150 people in the stands," Economakos said. "Ridiculous."

One factor working in the Picketts' favor: Jim is a real estate lawyer who can work on the plane and in hotel rooms. He jokes that his clients "don't even know I'm gone." And for him, every weekend feels like a trip home. He grew up in Cobleskill, earned his bachelor's degree at Hamilton College and law degree at Cornell.

The Picketts' itinerary involves flying into Albany, home or away, and using Blake's Chevy Tahoe to get around. ("You can't get the hockey smell out of a car," Jim observed.)

Blake, who spent four years at Cushing Academy (Mass.), sees his parents more now than at any time in college or prep school.

"I love it," he said. "I've been away for so long. It's great to see them every weekend. It's always a plus to have family in the stands."

Coach Dan Fridgen, a father of two, reflected on his travels to those parents' homes, as he asked their sons to come to RPI.

"These parents have entrusted you with their most important possession for four important years of their lives," he said. "That's a real honor."

"It's something you, as a parent, want to cherish. And the one way you can make sure you cherish those moments is to be at every game."