After a few week break we are back with another unique perspective of someone that makes our great hockey community what it is. I have known of Fiona for quite some time, but it wasn’t until we randomly played together in a pond hockey tournament in Colorado that I actually started to get to really know her. Although Fiona may only be known to most Ducks fans as some between whistle eye candy cleaning the ice, the Fiona I have gotten to know is a tough as nails, hardworking and caring person that has a strong passion for hockey. Fifi is a no nonsense women, that will shoot you straight just like the boys in the locker room. She started her playing career a little later in life, so she has had to work extremely hard to catch up to the tournament level women and continues to grow as a player every day. Due to her career and respect for others, I believe she had to hold back about a few topics she touches on or chose to leave out of her story all together. Even after censoring herself a bit, she has written a great story. Please enjoy in her own words the story of someone I am lucky enough to call my friend, Fiona McCarthy.
Hi my name is Fiona. I was born in New York and raised in California, I’m half Japanese and half Irish, I love my family, just finished my Masters in education, I’m a special education teacher, my dog loves to cuddle, I like to draw in my free time, and I love hockey.
Something many people don’t know is I started to play hockey when I was 18. Growing up I never played any sports. In 2005 I was 16, and hired for my first job at the local ice hockey rink in Yorba Linda. I worked there for 5 years, working my way up from snack bar girl to special events coordinator. I basically lived at the rink, and my coworkers were my family – we did everything together in the little bit of time we weren’t at the rink.
I taught myself how to skate by watching figure skating & hockey coaches during their private lessons while I skate guarded public session. I studied the way NHL players skated, and I watched the skating drills the youth hockey team did at practices. Once I was able to do crossovers and skate backwards, I thought it couldn’t be that hard to play hockey as long as you can skate, so I decided to use my employee discount and try hockey…yeah, I was wrong, it’s way harder than it looks and I have so much respect for the players that make it look so easy!
I played my first game in 2007, I was the definition of a bender. At one point in that game, I did the splits into the boards because I couldn’t stop on wheels. I will never forget the amount of pain and soreness I had after my first game, but boy was I hooked. Shortly after I got my balance on wheels, I joined two coed roller teams and an ice team. “Hockey. Is. Life.” Was basically my new motto. I had finally found something I loved and defined me, and I couldn’t get enough.
Through hockey, I experienced pain and injury. One year into my “hockey career”, a large male couldn’t stop and rocked me, long story-short, I was out of physical activity for a year and a half, and I am now meniscus-less. I’ll never be able to run a marathon (darn…), but lucky for me, skating is low-impact on the knee. I was a bit hesitant to go back to playing hockey, but I realized I was in a dark place and an ornery person once hockey was taken away from me. I decided to come back with a vengeance, and I got in the best shape of my life. I did learn though, it doesn’t matter how good of shape you are in, if you block a shot, it’s still going to sting.
Through hockey, I learned what it felt like to be part of a team. I played my first roller tournament in 2012. Kourtney Kunichika found me shooting around at the CCM booth and asked if I wanted to fill in and play in the AAU Junior Olympic Games. I had no business playing against teams from other countries, I was so lost and had no clue what the hell I was doing, but- I am insanely grateful I was given that opportunity, and I was able to experience fast paced hockey, coaching, and have a higher goal to set for myself.
Through hockey, I found a fun way to workout, and gained the confidence to become an ice girl for an ice hockey team. I thought my dreams had come true, I was getting paid to watch hockey and skate, root for one of my favorite teams, and have the opportunity to meet my idols. Little did I know that this job would end up breaking my heart in several ways. I learned things about my favorite players that I don’t even want to repeat, but I also got to know the kind hearts of some of the most vicious players on ice. I worked alongside some of the most dramatic and arrogant girls that just wanted to be in the spotlight (you know the movie Mean Girls?…It’s a true story), but I also worked with some awesome people and even became best friends with some. I experienced discrimination and humility because I used coed locker rooms when I played hockey, but I stand by my rightful decision not to segregate myself or think lesser of myself because I’m a female. I did, however, find some joy at this job. I got to meet some awesome hockey fans from all over the world, and get to experience some of the most memorable moments in my life such as working California’s first outdoor game, playoffs, and Selanne’s last game.
Through hockey, I am lucky and humbled to be part of an amazing family and lifestyle called Violent Gentlemen. “From the ice to the Octagon, from the ring to the field we honor the fight, the art, the opponent and the sport. Blood paints a path to the heart. Sweat, a river to the soul.” I’m proud to watch this company rapidly grow in the hockey community, and I am grateful for the fun work opportunities, and the kindness Mike Hammer and Brian Talbert have shown me. Respect and hard work are key virtues that make VGHC so great. Also, not very many people get to say George Parros is their boss.
Through hockey, I’ve experience so much frustration. If you’re a female playing in a beginner coed league (aka, you’re probably the only female in the league), try your best to move up a league where there is more respect for the game and players.
Beginner league: where most of the players think they are playing for the Stanley Cup, where you’re guaranteed to get hacked a minimum of 30 times a game, where most of the players take unnecessary slap shots with their head down every time, where “the point” doesn’t exist – so don’t even bother looking to make a pass to your defense – it’ll turn into a breakaway for the other team, where most of the players think everything should be a penalty, where most of the players can’t stop and will just run you over -and then want a call for interference or tripping, where males complain they think penalties aren’t being called because I’m a female, and where males (that have daughters and/or wives) think it is ok to call a female a B word, C word or a D word on the rink. These things aren’t true of every player, but those are just some of the things that are a reality for me every time I step onto the rink. I’ll admit I’m not always an angel on the rink, but if I’m not, it’s because you started playing dirty first, and I don’t let people just step all over me.
Through hockey, I’ve mainly experienced extreme amounts of happiness though. I am fortunate to have traveled to different states and countries to play and watch hockey, and meet some life long friends, including my other half, Tristan. I took a leap of faith and joined a random group of people I barely knew, to go play pond hockey in Colorado. Introducing, Cali Bro Dudes. Our little team of roller players ended up barely winning the tournament against teams that were solid pond hockey skaters, and our prize was a 30 rack of PBR (way better than medal). If you think scoring a goal is a great feeling, just think how much better it feels to score into a tiny 1 ft hole in a box on the ground, while skating on uneven ice trying to avoid cracks and holes. Everyone should play pond hockey at least once in their life – its exhausting, freezing, and quite a challenge, but freaking epic!
Hockey has been a love-hate relationship, but it has made a huge impact on my life thus far. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to play in several big tournaments, play with and against some amazing players, and meet amazing people like the Nijjar family who make playing hockey a possibility for many players, or Tyler Svoboda who continues to help grow the roller hockey community with his dedication to Revision and sharing all of these wonderful people’s stories. Thank you to the good refs that get yelled at every game for keeping the game safer, and to every hockey coach that dedicates their time to teaching little ones the greatest game in the world. If you’ve read this far, thank you for taking the time to get to know my story. See you on the rink!