When prompted to name a hockey hotbed in the United States, Kansas would be on very few people's radar... and for good reason. By the time Meghan Fardelmann, a native of Lansing, Kansas, turned 18 years old in 2005 there were fewer than 100 registered female hockey players in her home state. However, that did not stop her from pursuing her dream as a young girl playing ice hockey. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find anything to stop Meghan Fardelmann from stepping onto the ice and playing every shift like it was her last. There was a time when she thought that might be the case, but the NWHL has given her a chance to lace up her skates instead of hang them up.
When Fardelmann signed with the New York Riveters, General Manager Dani Rylan was quick to praise her new player. "Fardelmann is a two-way forward with a lot of strength and power. She played well at the Beantown Classic and I was impressed with her presence on both ends of the ice." With the first third of the season complete, the forward has lived up to the words and expectations of her general manager. Her offensive acumen provides the Riveters with some needed firepower and her defensive awareness makes her an invaluable component of the team's shutdown style.
At 28 years of age Fardelmann still has plenty of hockey ahead of her, but she is one of the more experienced players on the Riveters roster. The league is young, both in terms of its existence and the players it hosts, but it is readily apparent that Fardelmann shows no signs of slowing down and her experience at various levels of competitive hockey across different continents is a valuable resource. The Riveters have an entire team full of leaders, not just those players with an extra letter on the front of their jersey. Meghan Fardelmann is a perfect example of that.
Without further ado, let's hear from the woman herself. Ladies and gentlemen, Meghan Fardelmann.
CM: When did you first start playing hockey and how did that come about?
MF: I started playing when I was four. My brother played an hour away in Missouri, so I'd tag along and play on ice in the corners of the rink with the other rink rats. I asked for hockey gear for Christmas, but my parents made me a deal that I could only play if I also took piano lessons. I don't know the piano anymore.
CM: You have been praised for your defensive awareness and talent as a forward. How did you develop that two-way style of play?
MF: Good question. I like to play aggressively no matter where the puck is on the ice. The forward corner grinder part of the game is instinct. I want our team to have the puck. The defensive awareness is all discipline developed from coaching. That part of my game is about being present and alert.
CM: You played a pivotal role on your Boston College team during the NCAA tournament in 2007. Can you describe what that run was like and what you learned about yourself as a hockey player during that time?
MF: It was the first time BC had ever made it to the NCAA tournament, and we had to play Dartmouth in the regional game. Kelli Stack passed me the puck across the slot on a 2-on-1 to start the game with a lead. Our team blocked a million shots. Molly Schaus our goalie played great. In double OT, I put another puck in off a rebound and we won 3-2. Then we went to the Frozen Four in Lake Placid, another BC first. We played University of Minnesota-Duluth, and I scored a goal in that game, but we lost in double OT. I know it was a while ago, but I get reminded of some of these goals at work now. My boss at GM stopped a meeting once and said "I Googled your name last night." I panicked, but then he said that he saw some goals I scored in college. Good stuff. Now everyone at work has seen them, or asked me to show them.
CM: What was it like playing against some of the best players in the world while representing the United States at the Four Nations Cup in 2008?
MF: It was even longer ago. I was honored to put the U.S.A. jersey on for the Four Nations Cup in 2007 in Leksand, Sweden. The level of compete is intense, and you have to play full tilt and make good decisions every shift to make an impact. I loved it.
CM: When you graduated from Boston College in 2009, the CWHL was in its infancy and women's post-collegiate hockey in North America was nearly non-existent outside of the national teams. How did you feel when you stepped off the ice after your last college game and did you believe that was the end of your hockey career at an elite level?
MF: When I graduated in 2009, I had no clue if I was done or not. The 2010 Olympic tryouts were that summer, but I didn't think I was getting an invite. So, I booked a tournament trip to Prague the week before the Olympic tryout, then got an invite for the tryout. It probably wasn't the best idea to still go, but I went and flew back the day before the tryout. I did not make the Olympic team. I flew back to Boston and drove around the east coast aimlessly for a week or two before meeting up with my parents and my brother at my grandparents farm in Pennsylvania. I told them I didn't feel like I was done playing, but I didn't have anywhere to go. My mom went online and met a stranger who said they knew a team in Salzburg, Austria looking for a North American player to help them....five days later I was on a plane to Austria, but the hockey wasn't as competitive as college.
CM: Unlike many of your teammates, you were not playing in college or the CWHL prior to joining the NWHL this season. What steps did you take to prepare for the season and how important was the Beantown Classic for you this past summer?
MF: I played men's league hockey in Kansas once a week. We have Bud Light jerseys and we're sponsored by a bar, but it was the only ice time I could get. When I found out about the NWHL, I started working out off the ice after work. I got back into weights and sprints. The Beantown Classic this summer was a test for me to see if I still had 'it'.
CM: You have experience behind the bench as a coach in the German Bundesliga for DEC Salzburg Eagles. What did you learn about the game and yourself in that role?
MF: It was a player/coach role. I was brought to Salzburg to play, but our practices were a mess the first month. We had a '60s style Czech coach who barely spoke German, Austrians trying to translate what they could understand from him into English, and then we would write it on the board in English for our Finnish teammate who could read English. The drills were too basic and communication was difficult. A couple of us took over using college drills, and skills started to improve quickly. I learned how players respond differently to different teaching approaches.
CM: Compared to the vast majority of your teammates, who are between the ages of 21 - 25, you are a bit of a veteran. What has your experience been like with such a young group over the past few months?
MF: It's been fun. They bring a high energy to the rink every day. We do like to give each other a hard time about the age difference though.
CM: You had a unique perspective for the historic beginning of the league. What was it like being involved in the ceremonial puck drop for the first NWHL game in Connecticut on October 11?
MF: It was really special for me. My family has always been very supportive. I had over 40 relatives at the game from all over the country, so I'm glad they were all there for that moment. The rink was electric and I think the history was just tangible. Dani told me that morning that I'd get to take the puck drop with Koizumi, and I told her that Koizumi was my linemate and had the assist on my only international goal in Four Nations.
Meghan Fardelmann (18) hunting the puck (Photo: Mike Murphy)
CM: How did it feel scoring your first goal, especially a game winner, in the NWHL against the Boston Pride?
MF: It was exciting. The win was exciting. Our entire team battled for the whole game, and nobody was breathing easy until after it was over.
CM: You and your teammates have been remarkable in your charity and volunteer work in the New York community. Can you describe what those events have been like and what it means to you to be a part of them?
MF: It's been a real honor to be part of the good that the league has been doing. The NWHL has done a great job promoting the games with great interests in mind. Last game we partnered with CAMBA, and a few of us went to a CAMBA women's shelter in Brooklyn to serve dinner. It was a privilege to meet some of the women who were happy to have us there and grateful for what they have, and it reminds me to be thankful and not take anything for granted. I've also enjoyed the couple of times I've gotten on the ice with local girl's hockey teams. We did a clinic partnered with the Islanders, and we helped out with some New Jersey Colonials practices recently. I enjoy coaching skating basics, and it's neat thinking that some of these girls could have the NWHL in their future.
CM: Now for some fun questions: What does Meghan Fardelmann like to do when she is not skating for the New York Riveters?
MF: When I'm not playing hockey, I work at General Motors as a Production Supervisor. As a side hobby, I like to do wood burning art. I get quite a few requests, so it keeps me busy.
CM: Are there any pranksters on the team, and if so, who is the biggest culprit? Any examples that can be shared?
MF: I'd say maybe Packer even though she's the fine keeper, but I can't think of any pranks exactly. Our whole team likes to message funny memes to each other all day long.
CM: Fine Keeper?
MF: By fine keeper I mean she collects the money and records the team's fines. We can fine each other for anything from not cleaning up your locker room stall to something.
CM: Kansas City barbecue or New York City pizza?
MF: Joe's Kansas City barbecue, but it'd probably taste good on some NYC pizza.
CM: Is there anything you would like to say to New York Riveters fans?
MF: Thanks for the support! You are the reason we are able to play the game we love, and a part of why we play hard!
I want to extend a very sincere thank you to Meghan Fardelmann and the New York Riveters for their continued support and willingness to work with us here at Blueshirt Banter. Be sure to support Meghan and her teammates as they continue their quest for the Isobel Cup. They will be on the road tomorrow at 3:30 PM against the Boston Pride where Fardelmann scored in their last meeting! Let's go NWHL. Let's go Riveters!