Katie Fitzgerald honors history, while making history

The Riveters All-Star goalie shares the story behind her new helmet.

Katie Fitzgerald debuted her new goalie mask at the 2017 NWHL All-Star Weekend. Prior to the festivities in Pittsburgh, Fitzgerald chatted with The Ice Garden about her new helmet.

The Ice Garden: What is the special relationship between a goalie and her helmet?

Katie Fitzgerald: [Laughs] I’m very emotionally attached to all of my gear in general, but helmets especially because ... you have artistic freedom to put specific things on them that your other gear can’t really portray.  With this mask [in particular], this being a very historic league and getting a chance to be a part of it, I wanted to make a statement with it. When I first stepped into to [designing] it, I was so blocked.  I didn’t know what to put on it. But, the artist, Mike (Michael Figueroa), was incredible and really just took it away.

We met in person and he just asked all these questions, wanted to get to know me and my personality and he asked a lot of questions about the league ... I told him I have no idea what I want, but I don’t want something basic. I told him I wanted something original, and he took [laughs] the little I gave him and made the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.

TIG: Yeah, it’s pretty sick from what I’ve seen ... there’s a lot going on [with] this mask.

The components are the bandana; I just threw the idea out there of a [knitted] cap ... then he [said], “what about a bandana?” So, he came up with the idea of the bandana, it’s the same one that Rosie wears in our logo.

Underneath the bandana is a World War II fighter jet, which is one of the planes the [riveters] were know for working on and assembling specifically ... it meant a lot to know that he went to those lengths to be historically accurate.  The riveter women on each side are historic images, but he added a pop-art style to them. I like that they are very real historic women. They were actual people who stepped in, and stepped up for their country ... I think it’s cool that 70 years ago they were just doing what they thought was right.

TIG: So, you have the riveter women, you have the bandana, and you also have your nickname on there as well.

KF:  I like how [Mike] did it in Riveters font, it pops really well and it’s a nice little touch.

TIG: When I saw your helmet, what popped out to me is that, there are two women, and one of the women is a woman of color.  Talk to me about that [detail].

KF: Mike and I never had a conversation about it, but being from Chicago and all the difficulties going on in present time ... I think it was just something that we didn’t even need to discuss, he didn’t even need to ask. But, I really love that he did include a woman of color on the helmet because, I think a lot of people don’t realize how segregation ... was very much alive back then.

I was always a big fan of the movie A League of Their Own, and that’s one of the things I used to describe [the NWHL] to Mike. [We talked about the scene] that represented that line, that divide that was always kinda there but people very rarely talk about ... I really love that he added her in there, it’s a good touch.

TIG: Talk about what’s going on in the back [of the helmet]

KF: Snoopy! I was raised on Charlie Brown movies, like Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie Brown Halloween, all of those ... even my little cousins growing up now have Snoopy stuffed animals. So, it’s kind of a family tie. It’s kind of cool because I had Snoopy stickers on my goalie helmet when I was ten, and to have him back with me felt fitting.

TIG: You’re bringing in a lot of history with your helmet, but you are also apart of making history. How do you process that?

KF: It is very weird to think about. A League of Their Own is my go-to example to describe when people ask questions, “You’re league, it’s very new.  I haven’t heard of it. Is it struggling? How are things?”, that movie is the perfect symbol, a way to explain it so that they’d understand. I hard to wrap your head around [the fact] you’re in a similar situation as they were in. It’s very humbling, it’s a honor to take a step back and realize [what] you get to be a part of.  I can’t always find the words for it, but it’s cool to be a part of and it’s definitely an honor.

TIG: You often take pucks off the head, and sometimes you do it on purpose. How are you feeling about chipping this new helmet?

KF: I don’t know! I’m so nervous.  I used it yesterday for the first time and I didn’t get hit in the head. I’m nervous about the first time it happens, but when it comes down to it, I’m sure I’ll be able to take one for the team.

TIG: What else would you like to share about the process of designing the helmet or the symbolism that we haven’t talked about?

KF: I just want to give a shout out to Mike. He was incredible ... he gave me something cooler than I could have ever imagined. I’m glad that we fell into contact and I’m very pleased, and I love what he was able to create.