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Christmas delivery: Minnesota trucker helps Vermont player get home for the holidays

Ellice Murphy’s trip home took an unexpected turn after her flight from Minneapolis to Thief River Falls was canceled. Instead of being picked up at the airport by her parents, she was delivered directly to Roseau in the cab of a semi truck.

ROSEAU, Minn. — Ellice Murphy’s trip home to Roseau, Minnesota, for the holidays took an unexpected turn after her flight from Minneapolis to Thief River Falls on Wednesday, Dec. 15, was canceled. Instead of being picked up at the airport by her parents, she was delivered directly to Roseau in the cab of a semi truck.

Thanks to quick thinking by her mother, Diane Murphy, and the help of a local truck driver, Ellice was able to make it home the same day.

Ellice Murphy is a fifth-year senior defenseman for the University of Vermont women's hockey team who has two goals and 10 assists in 88 career games with the Catamounts. A 2018 graduate of Roseau, she helped get the Rams to the state tournament in 2017. This season, Catamounts are 9-7-2.

Her journey to Roseau started in Boston at 3 a.m. Wednesday. She planned to fly into Minneapolis, where she would board a flight to Thief River Falls to meet her parents, who would drive the hour back to Roseau. The weather had other plans.

Ellice’s early flight out of Minneapolis was canceled due to fog, and the next flight out of the city was not until 5 p.m. The forecast for the afternoon and evening predicted high winds and possible thunderstorms moving into the metro area, and Ellice and Diane were worried that flight would get canceled, too.


So, Diane started looking for other options. She posted on Facebook asking friends if any were traveling from the cities to Roseau, and then decided to give Byfuglien Trucking a call.

Diane works for Polaris as a central planner, and part of her job is to get parts to different Polaris plants, so she works with the trucking industry all the time.

“That’s like the first thing I thought of,” said Diane. “I should see if Byfuglien Trucking by any chance has a truck down there.”

And sure enough, it did. Diane called Julie Byfuglien of Byfuglien Trucking, who then contacted truckers in the area. Byfuglien found Alex Lee, a trucker from Warroad, Minnesota, who was willing to give Ellice a ride.

“He did not hesitate. Not even knowing who this girl is, he was completely willing to help,” said Byfuglien.

Lee was at Bennett Material Handling in Hopkins, Minnesota, picking up a forklift for Polaris. Ellice took an Uber from the airport to Bennett Material Handling, where she met Lee.

“I was telling my friends from school and my coaches what just happened to me,” said Ellice. “They were like ‘Only in Roseau, Minnesota, can you get in a semi with a random stranger and know that you’re going to make it home.’”

Lee helped Ellice pack her bags into the truck, and they began the six-hour drive to Roseau. Other than the foggy road conditions, the drive was good, said Ellice.


“I thought it was going to be awkward, but it wasn’t awkward. He was super nice,” said Ellice. The pair found a shared interest in hockey — Lee has four children who play and Ellice plays on the team at the University of Vermont.

Byfuglien Trucking is a family business with a history of hauling precious cargo. The company started hauling livestock, and then expanded to haul for Polaris, but is willing to help anybody who calls.

Ellice Murphy's family met her and Alex Lee in Roseau after the six-hour drive. Contributed free inline

“We say ‘You call, we haul,’ and when Diane called that day we said yes, we’d take on anything to help anybody out,” said Byfuglien.

Byfuglien said at the company, before truckers leave, they are told to “take your time getting there, but hurry back.” She says this is exactly what Lee did.

“We were hauling their precious cargo, which was their daughter, and Alex hurried back,” said Byfuglien.

For Diane, Ellice’s return on Wednesday was extra special because it was the first time Ellice had been back to Roseau since March 2020. Last year, in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19, nobody on the University of Vermont hockey team was allowed to leave during winter break.

“I was excited for her to come home and she hadn’t been here last Christmas because of COVID,” said Diane. “I just didn’t want her to end up stuck in the cities for a few more days. I just wanted to get her home.”

Ingrid Harbo joined the Grand Forks Herald in September 2021.

Harbo covers Grand Forks region news, and also writes about business in Grand Forks and the surrounding area.

Readers can reach Harbo at 701-780-1124 or iharbo@gfherald.com. Follow her on Twitter @ingridaharbo.
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