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My Game Day Routine: Katie Fitzgerald

By Dan Rice, 02/27/19, 11:00AM EST

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Ever wanted to know how professional hockey players prepare for a game, or what they do in between periods, after pregame warmups in the locker room? Recently I spoke with Metropolitan Riveters goaltender Katie Fitzgerald to find out what her routine when she’s getting ready for NWHL games.

Fitzgerald and the Riveters close the regular season on Sunday, hosting the Buffalo Beauts at 3 PM at RWJBarnabas Health Hockey House. Tickets are available at NWHL.zone/tickets.

Last March, she backstopped the Riveters to the Isobel Cup and the third-year netminder was named the MVP of the playoffs, where she pitched two shutouts. She is third on the league’s all-time wins list (20) and Fitzgerald won the Goaltender of the Year Award during her rookie season (2016-17). From before she arrives at the rink, the downtime as she waits to take the ice for the start of the game, what’s going on inside the Rivs’ locker room during intermissions, Fitzgerald was kind enough to give us a sneak peek into the life of a professional athlete.


PHOTO BY TROY PARLA


PHOTO BY TROY PARLA

It’s Game Day

“I usually sleep in (laughs), but when I do wake up I’ll have my oatmeal for breakfast and then go hang out in my room,” said the 24-year-old goalie. “I might foam roll, stretch a bit, just hang out on the floor and get the blood flowing in my body. Really just hang out with my cat (Ezra). He loves to hang out with me, we watch Netflix. Honestly, that’s what we do! I foam roll and when I end up foam rolling my back or my legs he’ll hop in my chest and just lay down. He’s not small!”

Fitzgerald lives with two of her teammates, Alexa Gruschow and Michelle Picard, and they typically will head to the game together. But sometimes one will leave before the other two Riveters.

“Normally we’ll carpool together unless there’s something going on after the game. Well, mostly Shelly drives herself because she likes to get to the rink early. But me and Lex, we like to take our time,” she said with a laugh.

Pregame

Once Fitzgerald arrives at the rink, she has a set of things that she will do to get herself ready to hit the ice and defend a net while skaters shoot a frozen chunk of rubber at her at high speeds. “I used to be so strict about what I did (before games), but I felt like I was getting too rigid and I’m trying to be loose now,” the Riveters goalie said.

“If I’m playing I might do some hand-eye coordination stuff, but I always call my dad,” she said proudly. “One hour before puck drop. I might get an update on the fam, what grandma’s up to, this, that, what their cat is up to. A nice little reality check,” she added with a smile. “He’ll give me little pointers: ‘Keep your glove up, have fun.’ Always tells me that they’ll be watching and ‘I love you.’ It’s nice to have that, those moments. We’ve had them since college.”

Hit the Ice

Goalies, and almost every hockey player that’s ever hockey’d, are creatures of habit. So once all of the preparation is done, it’s time to hit the ice and really get ready to play a game. Fitzgerald is the same in that regard, and she has certain places she goes to before every game on the ice to stretch and get herself mentally prepared to be the Riveters’ last line of defense. She even has a drill that she’s not a fan of too! Keep your eyes on her the next time you catch pregame warmups, you’ll see.

"Jenny (Ryan) and I always stretch in the same corner. The drills we (myself and the other goaltender) will split it about halfway. Then the last drill is a half moon drill. I hate that drill,” she said laughing. The skaters will line up in a large half-circle around the crease and one by one they will take close-range shots on the goaltender.

“It doesn’t make me feel too hot,” she said, still smirking. “I take the option on that one. They blast shots at you, they come in and deke you out. So I’ll just hang out at center ice, stretch, do some movements and visualization. I take that time to do my own thing and kind of quiet my mind. I let (Kimberly) Sass take the beating on those. She’s a gem for doing that.”

Game On

Anytime there is a stoppage in play, Fitzgerald will always take the few seconds of spare time she has to skate out of her crease. Don’t believe me? Watch a Riveters game. “I haven’t always done that. I used to just sit there, even when I was younger,” she explained. “Growing up my dad was always saying, ‘SKATE! MOVE!’ And I was like, ‘Meh.’ But it’s really become kind of a ritual and from college through today it’s just been a mental reset for me. I think since about my junior or senior year in high school.”

“You’re in the zone when the puck is in play but once the whistle is blown I skate to the boards, take a deep breath and smile, reset for the next play. I think it kind of breaks up the game a little bit for me.”


PHOTO BY TROY PARLA


PHOTO BY TROY PARLA


PHOTO BY TROY PARLA

During both intermissions, there is nothing really set in stone as far as what Fitzgerald will do - other than try to cool down because the locker room can get a little warm. “I usually just sit in my stall with my gloves and helmet between my feet. I grab either a Gatorade or a bottle of water and just hang out really,” she said. “Maybe we’ll talk about a play or a goal, something like that. I sit next to my goalie partner so we just talk about what we see. Sometimes tell jokes. I’m not super particular about a routine. Nothing crazy.”

Post Game

After each home game, Fitzgerald and her Riveters teammates will eventually come into the lobby at Barnabas Health Hockey House to sign autographs for and take pictures with any and every fan that asks. Before she makes her way to the lobby she may have to do an interview or two, and before she does that she takes off all of her gear in the locker room.

“Sometimes I stretch a bit in the locker room. Sometimes I don’t. I should be better at that,” she said shaking her head. “I was good at doing that last year. With this season being up and down, minutes-wise, it kind of depends. I try to get a little bit of a foam roll in to help that recovery. We always do autographs and it’s super fun. Especially when you’re having a tough year it’s really nice to see the people that are showing up and being supportive. I think I enjoy it more this year.”

So Fitzy, what’s the weirdest thing that a fan has asked you to sign?

“Hmmm. I signed a miniature figure of me. Not that it was weird, but it’s definitely the most unique. A fan had one made and then I got one for my parents for their birthdays, which are five days apart. It was supposed to be a surprise but it got out on social media. Surprise! It was painted over the body of a Martin Brodeur figure lifting the Stanley Cup.”

“We do have a fan that comes by and we sign her hand every time because we filled up a bunch of her shoes,” recalled Fitzgerald. “Kids have had me sign their helmets or gloves. Or game jerseys. I’m like, ‘You need this to play in! We can grab a puck for you.’