Student Spotlight: UI hockey player balances passion for sport and music

Mikey Fontana was part of an undefeated, MACHA championship-winning D2 hockey season for the Hawkeyes this year. However, hockey is only one of his passions. Music is also an important aspect of his life.


Megan Conroy, Arts Reporter

From the basement of his family home in Illinois, hockey player, musician, and UI accounting major Mikey Fontana described what his “new normal” looks like in a COVID-19 pandemic-era world. The basement recently flooded, making the now-carpetless space a haven for acoustics and rich sound. It is there where Fontana practices his guitar and singing.

Besides schoolwork, the senior has been trying to find productive ways to keep busy. Along with playing music, Fontana has been hard at work at home studying and honing his accounting skills. He spends time learning about the stock market and reading books on other financial instruments.

“Regular life takes so much energy out of you that this downtime kind of makes you feel awake again after being sleepy,” Fontana said.

Fontana said he assumed that while at home he would be playing guitar a lot more than he does while at school. However, he realized that hasn’t been the case since he hasn’t yet become comfortable playing in front of other people. Even years into his craft, he said he still feels as though he’s just getting started, and only shares the songs he plays through videos on Instagram.

“It’s been an interesting dynamic for me because I’m very much a bedroom and basement guitar player. I’m not someone who goes out and plays a lot,” he said. “When my family is all home like this — and in the basement specifically where my brother sits next to me — I have to come to grips with the fact that I should be able to play in front of other people.”

The athlete-musician has been learning how to play the guitar since sixth grade, but said he really dove into his passion for the instrument when he started high school. The first song Fontana taught himself was “Dust in The Wind” by Kansas after a friend of his said he’d learned how to play “Hey There, Delilah.” Seven years later, Fontana has been posting videos of both acoustic and electric guitar-playing. He posts covers of songs like John Mayer’s “Everything You’ll Ever Be,” reworked covers of songs like “Halo” by Beyonce, and even a few of his own songs.

His other passion, hockey, has been part of his life since he was 4 years old, when his dad taught him how to skate by placing skittles around the boards of an ice rink for him to retrieve. Now, at 22 years old, he plays for the D2 Hawkeye team.

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While at home with his family, Fontana said he has returned to that same rink to skate.

“[Hockey is] different than other sports,” he said. “[With] baseball or football, you make friends at your school, or your township— but in hockey, you make friends 45 minutes away who you see four times a week. It’s nice. It’s different.”

This season, the University of Iowa D2 men’s hockey team went undefeated and even won the Mid-American Collegiate Hockey Association Championship. The Hawkeyes season ended in the loss of a regional to Aurora.

“Hockey is pervasive,” Fontana said. “Hockey season does not end, it’s year-round… there isn’t much to balance, it’s consistent throughout the year. Guitar happens when I want it to happen, that’s the balancing act.”

For Fontana, balancing his two passions is like living in two different worlds, but he doesn’t find the two ever competing for his full attention.

“We don’t talk about [art] in sports, it’s another realm,” he said.

While right now Fontana considers himself to be his own audience, he said he hopes to one day play for more people.

“My goal with guitar is — when I’m older — to be able to go to an open mic situation at a blues bar and play a set,” he said. “I don’t think I could do that comfortably yet, it would just be nerve-wracking. But, that would be my favorite thing in the world.”