I was lucky enough to get a second chance to talk with Don Olivieri after COVID-19 ruined North American Hockey. He most recently played with the Fayetteville Marksmen of the Southern Professional Hockey League before the global pandemic shut them down. He put up 7 goals and 14 assists in 36 games with the Marksmen.
Don did do a Q&A with us before a few years back and you can check that out here: Interview With Pro Hockey Player Don Olivieri.
MD: Where did you play last season? Some ECHL, some SPHL?
DO: I started and stayed in the SPHL, didn’t want to do the whole call up thing and wake up everyday thinking where am I going next, or am I getting sent down.
MD: Where were you when you started seeing the news about the virus outbreak?
DO: I was with the Fayetteville Marksmen. Honestly, I saw some stuff on social media with some memes joking about it. Really did not think it was a real thing until everything started shutting down.
MD: What was the process of the SPHL telling you guys the season was getting shutdown?
DO: We had a 1st place battle with Peoria that weekend and before the 3 and 3 started, we saw The NHL shut down and the trickle down happened. We kind of figured it was bound to happen, but it didn’t hit home until the coach called us in the night before our first game against Peoria and told us.
MD: What did you like most about about the group of guys you were playing with in Fayetteville? What do you think contributed to you and the team’s success before the shut down?
DO: The group was a very tight group, everyone was there for the right reason and that’s to win. We pushed each other every single day. We just knew how to play together and knew where each other would be on the ice at all times.
MD: What was the general vibe with you and the guys when you got word of the shut down? Were you guys concerned, or was it get home as soon as possible?
DO: When we heard the rumors it definitely concerned us, but we stayed focused and played hard every night until it officially shut down.
MD: Did you have any concern about getting back to PA?
DO: I had zero concern about going home at all. It was just a shock when I got home, everything was shut down. Only way you could leave your house was being able to let your dog out.
MD: What impacts did the sports shut down have for you guys in the E and SPHL outside of not playing?
Financially it was tough, losing a paycheck and going home to everything shut down was very hard. I know it’s tough for older guys who were thinking about retiring after that season and it gets cut short because of COVID. It’s not a last memory anyone wants to have.
MD: Its still surprising to me that a lot of hockey fans don’t know, or have not even heard of the Southern Professional Hockey League. Everyone says its comparable to the ECHL when it comes to skill and play. What can you tell us about the League and your time playing in it?
DO: I mean my first two years in the league, it definitely was a physical league, and a lot of tough guys. As the years went, the talent increased, every team had about 8 to 13 D1 guys and it was very competitive. When every team has about 5 to 10 call ups a year, that should explain itself.
MD: Do you think you will play when the ECHL and SPHL start back up?
DO: So unfortunately, half the league opted out for this season, Fayetteville being one of them. I really don’t know if I’m gonna play or not. A side of me wants to play again but a side of me doesn’t want to start over after having a great season in Fayetteville and accomplishing what we did before COVID hit. That team and the coaching staff was one of a kind and It felt like home.
MD: Let’s just say hypothetically you were in a league that proposed a bubble, do you think you would go?
I would 100 percent go, like I said it’s my job and my job expects me to show up and give it my all. I would of done anything in the world to be able to finish our season.
MD: Have you gave any thought to becoming a Beer League All Star, or what you might do outside of hockey?
Haha, I play softball mostly in the summer. Men’s leagues for hockey have been shut down and rinks have a lot of rules when it comes to skating in PA. I fished a lot during the pandemic but other than that, just tried to stay safe and take care of myself.
MD: Would you look into doing coaching or scouting, or are you trying to stick closer to home?
DO: I have thought about getting into coaching, I’d like to do some college coaching and see where that could take me.
MD: If you could get into coaching, would you be more laid back, or a total hardass? Given you played mostly as a defensemen would that be your main focus, or would you flip the coin and focus on offense?
I would have a mix between both, can’t be too light on players. I’d have an attack team and a hard working team until the horn blows. Always protect each other at any cost also.
MD: Has it crossed your mind to try and take a swing at a league over in Europe?
DO: Yeah, I have always thought about it but with having my fiancé and wedding to plan and the responsibilities I have here, I couldn’t swing a year in Europe.
MD: I do not know about you but, if you are anything like me, but during the shutdown I did a massive amount of ordering out. Have you found any underrated places to order from?
DO: Haha nah I didn’t, I actually cooked a ton while in lock down. I occasionally ordered Primo’s, which is a prime hoagie spot.
MD: I know you are a Philly guy just like us, but you have done some significant traveling in your time, if you could move anywhere, where, and why?
DO: I’d move to Cicero, Indiana, I love that place. It’s a small town where almost everyone knows everyone and a ton of fishing.
MD: You’re obviously a Flyers Fan, who or what pieces would you like to see them add?
DO: Haha man, I wish they would of pulled the trigger on Pietrangelo but Philly sports are known for not making the best moves.
MD: Have you given up on the Eagles and Sixers?
DO: I don’t watch basketball at all but the eagles I knew they weren’t gonna be good this year so it’s all good.
MD: You have got a serious collection of ink. What is your favorite piece, where did you get it, and do you have any plans on getting some new ink since shops are open?
DO:I don’t have a favorite piece, I love all of them. I used to travel and get tattoos from every state I played in but I’m sticking to electric factory in New Jersey. Best tattoo spot in the states. I’m currently working on my leg sleeve now.
MD: Nubyjas Wilborn tweeted out “one of the great failings of sports journalism is that we don’t do a good enough job of explain to fans how hard it is to be a pro athlete”, what do you think about that, and is there anything fans may not realize about what it’s like being an athlete?
DO: I mean fans don’t see the everyday work and time we put into our sport. It’s a job and if we don’t perfect it, it’s like any other job, you’ll get fired. We obviously love what we do and get to play a sport for a living, but the everyday life is a grind being away from families for a long period of time.
Wanted to give Don a big thank you again for taking the time to answer some of my questions in his busy schedule, and since I did not get it in the first time he did a Q&A with us, here is an absolelty beauty of a goal.
Look for hopefully more player QA’s in the future, and some exciting news coming out real soon.