FREDERICTON — Wayne Long is so big a New England Patriots superfan that he has their logo tattooed on his leg. He spent 13 years on a waiting list for season tickets — despite living on the other side of an international border.
"It's six-and-a-half hours to drive from here to Boston," said Long, the member of Parliament for Saint John - Rothesay.
He doesn't mean that it's far. He means that it's close.
For the legions of Patriots superfans in New Brunswick, New England's NFL team is theirs too, and Gillette Stadium in the Boston suburb of Foxboro, Mass., is practically local.
"I think people would be shocked if they actually did a head count of the number of people — particularly from southern New Brunswick — who go down to Patriots games. I'd dare say there are hundreds."
Much of the province will be watching Feb. 3 when the Patriots will be in Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII, their fourth appearance in the NFL's championship game in five years. They've won it twice since 2015.
Super Bowl parties are planned at homes, bars and even in hotel ballrooms.
Long has had Patriots season tickets for four years, and said he gets to about four home games each year.
There's a strong bond between New England and Atlantic Canada, he said: The people are friendly and you can walk along Beacon Hill in Boston or Germain Street in Saint John and see similar architecture.
The Maritime province has long-standing ties with the New England states and that includes support for the region's sports teams like the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins.
"New Brunswickers relate well to the folks in New England. We spend so much time in New England, whether it's for vacationing or shopping, or catching commercial flights out of Bangor or Boston," said Bob Hatheway of Fredericton.
The Patriots fan and season ticket holder was still rejoicing the Patriots' 37-31 victory over Kansas City on Sunday to capture the AFC championship.
"New Brunswickers have such an important relationship with New England. We're almost like an extension of New England," Hatheway said, noting that his grandmother was born in Maine while his grandfather was from Florenceville, N.B.
Hatheway and a friend have shared a pair of season tickets since about 2010, and he made his way to five games in Foxboro this season.
"It's very common to run into other New Brunswickers. There are people we run into all the time," he said.
Rees Hasson of Fredericton said he's been a Patriots fan his whole life. He's 17.
However he said there's a bit of division at home because his mother is also a Patriots fan, while his father cheers for Washington.
He's calling for New England to beat the Los Angeles Rams by three points, while Hatheway expects a bigger spread, 28-17.
As a season ticket holder, Hatheway has his fingers crossed for a chance to win tickets to the game in Atlanta, and has friends who have offered a place for him to stay.
Failing that, he plans to do like many other New Brunswickers — gather with friends for beers and snacks — and cheer on their team from afar.
Long said fan support for the Patriots will likely waver when quarterback Tom Brady, now 41, finally retires.
But he says he'll still be cheering for them long after the Brady era ends. When it comes to football, the Liberal MP's blood run red, white and blue.
"I have always been a Patriots fan," he said.
Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press