Fifty-four-year-old Greg Pond of Munising, better known as "Ponzie," is Northern Michigan University hockey's greatest fan. For 31 years he's been supporting the team in every way he can. Now he's been invited to the Central Collegiate Hockey Association's final championship game at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit in March.
Ponzie says he's the most positive Wildcat fan on the planet. He always cheers, never boos, never leaves a game early, and he attends every game he can.
"If I could write a story on each hockey game, I tell you what...we could sell a book and donate all that money to the hockey program, and they could have their own team plane," said Ponzie.
He also has a tradition of seeing the team off in Munising on their way east, or on their way back west, even if it's four in the morning. He recalls only missing the bus one time when President Barack Obama was visiting Marquette and the bus left early.
On Thursday, he met up with the team on their way to Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
He puts on quite a show. After bringing four or five cases of "Victory Water" and giving a pep talk, he plays the fight song on the kazoo and moons the team with the same "Go Cats Go" underwear he has worn every time since he first started his ritual in 1981.
The team always gets a kick out of it, and they admire his loyalty.
"In our hearts, he's our number one fan," said Jared Coreau, goalie and NMU junior.
"He's always there for us, always supporting us. Whether things are going good or the team's not doing so well, he's still cheering us on," said Scott Macaulay, Team Captain and NMU senior.
Ponzie's enthusiastic support for the team came from Al "Goofus" Ammesmaki of Negaunee, his "fan coach." Goofus was the one who gave him the notorious underwear. Thursday's festivities were the last time those underpants will be used, however. With their retirement, they will be framed in the coach's office. Ponzie will have a new pair ready for next time.
Ponzie sets up the Wildcat Bus Stop every time the team travels east. He has such a collection of memorabilia that people usually think he's selling NMU attire.
"I get people stopping, wanting to know, 'How much for this? How much for that?' and I say, it's not for sale!" Ponzie said.
The CCHA has invited Ponzie to attend the championship game and end of the season banquet in March as an honored guest. The CCHA is disbanding this year, and this will be the final championship game in the conference.
"The CCHA is the best collegiate hockey conference in the United States. What a shame that it's dissolving. It's going to be a bittersweet moment at Joe Louis Arena, but it is what it is," Ponzie said.
Ponzie will be there and is hoping that the Wildcats will be in the championship, but win or lose, he'll always be cheering just as loud.