ORLANDO, FLA – Walking up the steps of the Amway Center, a big smile overtakes Joe Connor’s face.
It’s Thanksgiving morning. He’s watching an ECHL hockey game between the Orlando Solar Bears and the Norfolk Admirals. That’s exactly how he wants to spend it.
“I still have that kid-like mentality,” Connor said. ”I’ve been to this building before but I’ve never seen hockey before. It’s something new. It’s like opening a present. For me it’s like a Christmas present.”
It’s a one he’s unwrapped thousands of times. Throughout his life, Joe has seen a home game for every major professional American sports team. That’s on top of the witnessing sporting events at nearly all 300+ NCAA schools. He’s also working on completing the task for minor league baseball and hockey.
“It is the greatest reality show there is because you go to an event, you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Connor said. “You certainly don’t know the outcome because it hasn’t started yet but you may see something you’ve never seen before.”
His journey has earned him the nickname Mr. Sports Travel. With a name like that, you need a ride. This avid sports fan does not have an average car. Joe pulls into the Geico Garage across from the Amway Center in his Ford Fusion decked out in the American flag.
“There’s a natural curiosity because it’s so unusual,” Connor said. “I mean who has their car wrapped in the American Flag? Well I do and I take a lot of pride in that.”
There’s a purpose beyond the novelty. Joe raises awareness for Operation First Response. It’s an organization that assists veterans and military families in need. It’s a cause that is personal to Joe.
His father, Joe Connor III, served in the United States Air Force. A military man who spent years working in television in Orlando. It’s a place where Joe and his dad’s love of sports continued to grow. Joe Connor III died in 1999.
“Those that are serving are doing it because they want to do something greater than themselves,” Connor said. “I want my car to represent that and know that freedom is not free. Don’t take it for granted and just thank a veteran.”
On the back of his car reads a simple message; Thanked a Veteran, Service Member, First Responder or their Families today?
Joe Connor loves his sports and his country. He lives his life with perspective.
“I’m blessed to be able to do this, to have my health and grow up in a free country, to be raised in a great family so I’ve been lucky to live the dream.”
Joe lives in San Diego but was happy to spend time back in Central Florida with his mother.