Being an Ice Girl in the NHL offers a unique perspective on the sport, says Erin Rohac of the Ducks Power Players, but it's also an important job.
Maybe you can’t skate. Or you have cement hands. Or the hockey sense of a mule.
Whatever the case, you’ve given up on playing in the NHL. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up on your hockey dreams. Plenty of fans have transitioned from being on-ice failures to off-ice successes by performing a variety of tasks in and around the league. And in this occasional series, we’re going to introduce you to some of them.
Meet Erin Rohac, a member of the Anaheim Ducks Power Players. It’s a job she loves, but one that the 30-year-old Riverside, Calif. native didn’t expect to find herself performing. “To be honest, I had never considered a ‘cheer-type’ job since I never participated in anything like that growing up,” she says. “I was invited to watch a playoff game in 2011 and they were advertising the upcoming auditions. My mom encouraged me to try out. A few months later, I was standing outside Anaheim ICE, surrounded by a hundred beautiful girls, filling out my paperwork to audition.”
Rohac, a natural athlete who plays soccer, tennis and recently competed in her first triathlon, made the cut. Now, five years later, the veteran ice girl has some unique insights into the challenges and rewards of the job.
SI.com: What sort of training qualifies someone for this job?
Erin Rohac: Personally, I think the training for this job comes from life experience, personality and the willingness to throw yourself out there and engage with fans, who essentially are strangers until you get to know them. We’re a part of this organization to make everyone feel welcome, mutually show our love for hockey and be as loud as we can to pump up our team towards the ultimate goal, the Stanley Cup. As simple as that is to say, it is not an easy task for everyone. It’s why our managers have a difficult time in selecting our team. We aren’t just pretty girls who love the sport. We have to be able to show that love to everyone, all the time.
We do have to physically train for the skating portion of the job. We enjoy working out at the gym, taking kick boxing or yoga classes, or playing sports.SI.com: Sounds like you’re a pretty serious athlete. Have you played hockey yourself?
ER: I started playing in a weekly pick-up hockey game with other Ducks staff members about a year and a half ago. I’m not as talented as the majority of those playing in the scrimmages, but I’ve been improving each week. I score the occasional goal and manage to steal the puck away, but I still have a lot of work to do. My skating abilities have improved drastically, which helps in my performance as a Power Player.
SI.com: You have a masters degree from Cal State Fullerton in communications and public relations. How has that influenced your efforts as an ambassador for the team?
ER: I saw the job as an incredible opportunity to get experience working for a sports team and putting my degree to work. I love the team and perhaps one day this could lead to a full-time position within the Ducks organization.
This has been one of the most rewarding and beneficial jobs I have ever had. I’ve learned a great deal about marketing, fan development and philanthropic opportunities in Orange County. I believe my masters has helped prepared me for this job and made me a better Power Player.
SI.com: Explain the duties you perform as a member of the Power Players.
ER: The primary focus of our job is to interact with fans during Ducks home games and public appearances. During these events we pump up the crowd, take photos and hand out Ducks swag. We’re there to make sure the fans have a positive experience in and outside of the arena.
The secondary part of our job is cleaning the ice surface during games. Every arena has an ice crew that performs this duty. However, we’re one of the few all-female crews in the NHL that primarily cleans the ice. We have 12 people skating (eight of which are Power Players) and four or five on shoes. Our job is to clean the ice surface to ensure the puck is not impeded and to avoid delays in game play. We only have 90 seconds to perform this task and it’s not easy—we have to avoid players, refs and equipment on the ice.
SI.com: Break down what you go through on a typical game day.
ER: We must arrive at the Honda Center a few hours prior to the puck drop. We’re given 30-45 minutes of ice practice to prepare for a game. While every girl may not skate during each game, we utilize the open ice to warm up for the night and get in some practice. Following this we prepare for the in-game elements that will take place [like] tying and taping t-shirts to throw out to the fans. After that we run through a directional meeting with our stage managers and entertainment managers to prepare for the night’s promotions and intermission games.
Before we head out for the night, we do last minute touch-ups to our make-up and hair and head to the concourse to greet fans and take photos. So if you ever want to come say hi, we’ll be walking around.
[When it is game time] we’re scheduled to either skate on ice or pump up the crowd and assist in promotions during the game in the stands (also known as “The Bowl”). If skating, we’ll go out to clean the surface three times every period. This takes place when the broadcast is in a commercial break. If scheduled in “The Bowl,” [we're] in the stands with the fans during dance and “kiss cameras”, seat upgrades, military recognition, tossing t-shirts to the crowd and cheering on the team.
To finish the night off, when our Ducks are victorious, we skate out to celebrate the Three Stars of the game. We create a tunnel near the players’ bench for each star to skate through and give a signed stick to one lucky fan in the stands.
GALLERY: Ducks Power Players
SI.com: So, what are the perks of this gig?
ER: This may sound cliché but there are too many perks of this job to list them all, so I’ll just name my top three. First off, it’s the unique perspective of the sport that not many get to experience. The opportunity to skate next to these athletes that I admire so much is truly incredible. Second, it’s all about the people. I have met so many wonderful people, colleagues and fans, and I cherish our memories and friendships over the past four years. [And then there’s] being a part of the photo shoots. Most of us would never get this type of opportunity otherwise, especially being a part of our swimsuit calendar. Our photographer, Ken Pfeifer, is amazing and every girl looks incredible in their photos. This year was particularly fun being back at the beach, showcasing the beauty of Southern California.
Of course, there may be some downsides, particularly juggling multiple jobs, school, family, etc. That can be legitimately tough, but it is all workable and worthwhile. I worked three or four jobs while in grad school in my first season, just to live on my own in Orange County. [But] it’s a fun job and everyone looks forward to working as much as possible.
SI.com: What’s been your best moment on the job?
ER: There are two moments that really stand out. The first was at the Fedorin Cup, a charity hockey game in support of the fight against cancer. Teemu Selanne was playing in the game and we decided to show him, and a few others, how we clean the ice. I skated and shoveled the ice with Teemu and taught him our routes. Great hockey player, but we know how to clean the ice better than he does!
The second was skating in the first ever Stadium Series outdoor game in Southern California. Although I had already skated in countless games, this was one for the books. There must have been three times as many fans in the stands [at Dodger Stadium] and it felt unlike any other night. It was also the first time I was in Sports Illustrated. [I was shown] cleaning the ice in the background of a photo of our goalie.
SI.com: If someone wanted to follow in your footsteps, what advice would you offer?
ER: I would advise them to be prepared! Know all about [the team] and hockey. Priority number 1: We are hockey fans! We love this sport and enjoy conversing about it.
Prepare yourself by skating and learning your craft. I’ve fallen on the ice; it can happen to anyone. Even the players catch an edge sometimes; or as I like to call it, “the ice snake came up and bit you.” But you have to recover and keep going.
You also have to prepare to be in the limelight. You’re putting yourself out there and this job requires a great deal of responsibility. We have to be the ones to keep it loud in the arena and pump up the fans when they need encouragement. And don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself on camera. We’re lucky to be in this position.