For this month’s OnFire magazine I was asked to get in touch with the man known very well to fans around the league, Zack Fitzgerald.
Now as many of you know, Zack was one of my very first interviews for Chasing The Puck and I’ve been in touch with him many times since. So when I was given the opportunity to stretch my creative and journalistic muscles for this month’s piece I was straight down to writing the email and asking him if he’d be game. Which of course, he was. Let’s face it, you might not be a fan on the ice but he’s certainly a sweetheart off it.
Zack is an incredibly caring guy, he’s always making sure his teammates are okay if they get hurt, he always has time for the kids at any Sheffield Steelers social event and even for away fans like myself, he’s always willing to chat if he has time to and even if he doesn’t he’ll still say hi and bye and give you a wave as he passes (along with a sneaky side remark about wearing the wrong jersey!)
Now my piece for this month has been submitted for print and obviously I’m not allowed to share that with you here until February and OnFire is no longer in print for that month but what I do have for you is the ‘outtakes’ if you will? This is a snippet of some of the bits that didn’t make the magazine final cut. I hope you enjoy reading them.
The conversation moved on to charity work, I know a lot of players have particular organisations that are close to their hearts that they work with externally of the clubs they play for. “I don’t have any particular charities.” Zack explains. “I do like to support any cancer research charities, children’s needs and neurological charities.” When I asked what it was specifically about supporting children’s charities he explained; “I enjoy visiting children’s hospitals, especially in the holiday season to pass out toys, chat with kids about hockey and do my best to spread any kind of cheer.” All of the Elite League teams have held a Teddy Bear Toss or Air the Bear event over the festive season to gather toys for this specific occasion and photos have been circulating on social media of their visits to hospitals around the country over the festive season. Alongside his visits to children’s hospitals Zack continued to tell me of other charitable things he’d done in the past. “In a few cities that I have played, we would travel around the city and pass out food hampers to underprivileged homes.”
The Elite League is known for having a very gruelling schedule over the festive period which means a lot of players can’t go home to their families for Christmas. I asked Zack how he’d be spending Christmas in Sheffield this year. “We don’t have much of a Christmas break, this seems to be the most busy time of the year for hockey. We will hopefully share a meal with my teammates and if not we will join some local friends for a meal and company.”
Players come from all of the world to play in the Elite League and I always like to find out how traditions vary from place to place, so I asked whether he and wife Crys had any traditions over the festive period. “The only tradition we really have at the moment is watching movies and visiting Christmas markets. We really love the markets, it is a new experience for us and you just cant get enough of the food and atmosphere.
I’d heard and seen photos of Zack at social events making sure even the youngest fan had a good time and it’s obvious that they’re important to him. “I have always enjoyed spending time with young fans, that was me as a youngster. I used to wait after the local University games, my brother played, so sometimes I was privileged enough to hang with the players.” He tells me. “and I always wanted the broken sticks as well!” I’ve seen tweets where Zack has said he and his wife wanted to start a family soon.”I love to hang with my teammates children a well, I guess I have a knack for it and yes, you are correct it is hopefully in our near future. I would like to have some of my own children hanging around my games.” So I decided to ask him what it was about Sheffield specifically that he liked. “Sheffield is definitely a good city, when there is time to explore there are a lot of great places to visit. Our favourite part about the Sheffield area is definitely the Peak District. Whenever we can make it out there, we take advantage of it.”
And since I always seen to ask about food at some point in most interviews, I figured I’d ask the guy for his recommendations for places to eat in Sheffield, should I take a trip up there again at any point. “There are some great areas in Sheffield that have a lot of options for food and are fun to explore. Eccelsal, Division and West street all have many options. We enjoy Craft & Dough, Lucky Fox and the Mud Crab. They are worth checking out for dinner!” I was also given another recommendation, which I might just have to take up at some point! ” If you have time ask Rod Sarich, he is basically the mayor of Sheffield, he knows every nook and cranny!” Thanks Zack, I’ll definitely get hold of Rod at some point if I need myself a tour guide!
There you go! A small teaser to wet your appetite ahead of this Sunday’s bout at the Skydome, 5:15pm Faceoff.
Now if you want to know what else I asked him, then get yourself down there and pick up a copy of this month’s OnFire from any of the vendors around the arena for just £3 throughout the month of January.
Tickets for Sunday’s game can be purchased from Planet Ice Coventry here. The red block (7) is designated for the Orange Army.
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Feature photo credit goes to the lovely Mrs. Fitzgerald @crysfitzgerald on Instagram