It doesn’t take long to recognize Giovanni Fiore when he takes the ice for the Rapid City Rush. If his #91 doesn’t give it away, nor the perfectly painted white bottom half of his stick, it is certainly because of the presence and skill he exudes both in practice and in game action.
The son of the Boston Bruins 163rd overall pick in 1982, Tony Fiore, Giovanni was genetically programmed to continue the family business: hockey. The elder Fiore was also the 1983 IHL Rookie of the Year, and Italian League Champion in 1991, and a CHL Champion in 1993.
“In Canada, everyone plays hockey when they’re younger. I played because of my dad when I was younger, but also played soccer too. I eventually stuck with hockey because I was really good at it,” Giovanni said of his father’s influence on playing the sport. “He always told me to have fun and work hard, which I think every child gets from their dad when they play a sport at a younger age. That continued as I got older and turned into a pro. He constantly reminded me to work hard every day, and that it would pay off eventually.”
Giovanni emphasized that those words were the most important takeaway he had from his dad as his career escalated to the professional ranks.
“It absolutely is. My dad went down that road and had a good, long, and successful career. He didn’t play in the NHL, so I’m sure he learned some things that he might look back on and say ‘I wish I had done it like that’, so it’s been great for me to feed off of what he knows,” Fiore added.
Another takeaway from his father that Giovanni quickly caught on to? While the world of hockey may seem enormous, it really is a small circle. Tony Fiore played with some familiar faces to Rush fans, including former Head Coach/General Manager, Joe Ferras (Milano in Italy 1994-1996), and with current Tulsa Oilers General Manager Taylor Hall, with whom he won the 1993 CHL Championship.
“Since my dad was all over the map, I have contacts and know people all around, which has been great to have in my career,” Fiore mentioned. “It’s so funny, we have the CHL trophy on our bus to bring back to Rapid City for our Opening Weekend celebration of the 2010 Rush team. On the Ray Miron Presidents’ Cup, I can see the plaque for that ’93 Oilers team that my dad was on. It’s a fun reminder of my dad to have on this road trip.”
All of this advice from his father, and family background leads to the present: Giovanni’s professional career. Following a stellar final season in the QMJHL with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in 2016-17 in which he scored 52 goals and 90 points in 61 games, Fiore signed an NHL contract with the Anaheim Ducks. Just months after his major-junior career finished, he made his NHL debut on October 7, 2017 against the Philadelphia Flyers on home ice at the Honda Center.
“I was excited, obviously. It’s the NHL!” Fiore recalled fondly with a smile. “At the same time, I felt ready. I wanted to make a good first impression and start off on the right foot. I wasn’t focusing on the fact that it was my first NHL game. Even though it’s in the back of your head, it’s not the only thing you think about. You want to work hard and be the best you can be. I played in a bunch of preseason games with the Ducks leading up to that point, so I felt comfortable with the group of guys there and was already in the beat, so to speak. I don’t necessarily want to say it was like a preseason game, but it was similar, except that the game counted for two points in the standings.”
When asked what he would never forget from the experience, Fiore joked: “I iced the puck at one point, and on the ensuing faceoff, Philly put out [Claude] Giroux and their top line. I’m sitting there thinking ‘this isn’t junior hockey anymore’. It’s not like junior where you ice the puck and you have junior players lining up against you. You ice the puck in the NHL and you have Claude Giroux and the other team’s top line coming out for the draw and staring at you from across the ice, so you have to be smart about it.”
By the way, he (thankfully, as he put it) didn’t take the draw. “I don’t even remember who took the faceoff. I was so gassed,” he said as he laughed, “but we did get the puck out and got a line change, so that was good.”
Fiore was assigned to the American Hockey League’s San Diego Gulls shortly after, where he finished the rest of the season and registered 30 points in 65 games. He began the next season, 2018-19, with San Diego again, and earned another 11 points in 23 games before he was traded to the Arizona Coyotes organization. Fiore finished the year with the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners and added another 7 points in 30 games. Now on the final year of his NHL contract, Fiore was assigned to the Rush prior to the start of the 2019-20 ECHL season. Through the first three games, he leads the Rush with 4 points (2g-2ast), and has a point in all three games so far.
When asked of his new organization, and his overall thoughts on his team, Fiore said “I’m having a lot of fun right now! It’s a young team, but we have a great group of guys that are willing to work hard every night. We battle hard, compete, skate fast, and bring a good pace to our opponents. I think that pace catches them off guard, and they have a hard time catching up to us.”
Being in the ECHL, and having NHL preseason and regular season, and AHL regular season experience, Fiore understands that everyone on the team looks up to him as a leader, knowing he’s been to the level that they all hope to reach one day.
“Not only do I want to teach them to work hard, but focus on yourself. Make sure you’re ready come game time, whether it’s in your off-ice preparation, on the ice, taking care of your body, or understanding the details in practice. It is fun when practice is flowing well, passes are on the tape, and guys are working hard and competing against each other. In practices, that’s when you get better. If your partner is pushing you and playing hard on you, he’s making you a better player at the end of the day. That’s what it’s like at the NHL level: guys are dialed in, and ready to show up every day, whether its practice or a game. They’re always there, and they’re always at the top of their game. I’d like to have our team do the same, and feel we can be really successful with that.”
Fiore’s expectations of playing as a professional, regardless of the level of the sport, have been maintained.
“It’s hard work, right? Like everything in life,” Fiore concluded. “There are no freebies in hockey and life. You have to work for what you want, and it’s the same thing here. You’re not going to have anything handed to you. That’s how you achieve success in this business. You keep plugging day by day and take a step forward and improve. At the end of the day, if you’re proud of what you’ve done throughout the day, you’re going to be a successful player."