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Executive Diversion

Nonprofit mental health CFO finds escape playing ice hockey

Competition, constant improvement and camaraderie drive Ronne Apicella’s passion for a sport played on something decidedly un-Florida: a sheet of ice.

  • By Mark Gordon
  • | 5:00 a.m. January 10, 2024
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
Ronne Apicella has been playing ice hockey for more than 20 years.
Ronne Apicella has been playing ice hockey for more than 20 years.
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Ronne Apicella, CFO, SalusCare. Organization is a nonprofit mental health and substance abuse provider in Lee County. Apicella has been with SalusCare since 2012, after working in financial roles for public manufacturing companies. She enjoys handling the financial side of an entity with a mission she believes deeply in. “The work that we do here outweighs any of the career paths I’ve been involved in,” Apicella says. 


Ice hockey. Apicella, 51, picked up the sport some 25 years ago, when she lived in Rochester, New York. Her then-husband played in a league, and she would go to some of his games. “I said ‘I'm not going to just sit here in the stands and watch this. I’m going to get up and play.’” 

Ronne Apicella
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Skate around: She learned the sport and joined some teams in central New York state that played games all around New York and in Canada, too. She relocated to Southwest Florida in 2006, and in 2009 began to play hockey locally, first with the Lady Everblades in the Florida Women’s Hockey League. The FWHL, founded in 2002, has 11 teams, as far north as Pensacola and Jacksonville and as far south as Miami and Fort Myers. Apicella currently plays on two men’s teams and a co-ed team, in addition to the Lady Everblades. 

Original six: Apicella, who plays defense and forward, is a big New York Rangers fan, and honors the team by wearing red hockey pants when on the ice. She says she loves playing hockey because of both the “incredible cardio” workout it provides and it “is a sport where you’re always trying to get better and better.”

Clear the puck: In addition to an excellent workout, hockey has provided Apicella an escape. “It’s an amazing feeling when you step out into the ice,” she says. “Some people meditate, some people read books. That’s how I feel when I get out on the ice and play hockey. Nothing else that happened that day matters.”

Family ties: Apicella also says playing ice hockey has enabled her to “meet so many amazing people and (make) long-term friends that have become my Florida family.” She also loves how the Lady Everblades do an annual fundraiser, benefiting organizations fighting breast cancer and cystic fibrosis and twice raising money for hurricane recovery in Southwest Florida, among other causes.  

Hat trick: The biggest on-ice challenge Apicella says she’s overcome is learning how to do backwards crossovers. It requires a combination of balance, core muscle strength and mental focus, all with a hockey stick in both hands, ice skates on your feet and nine others trying to corral and control a puck the size of a hamburger. Apicella was motivated to get better at backwards crossovers partly by her competitive spirit and partly by playing in men’s leagues. “When you’re playing with the men,” she says, “it makes you want to get faster, better and stronger.”

Ronne Apicella has been playing with the Lady Everblades since 2009.
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Big win: A standout memory for Apicella on the ice happened last year, when her Ice Queens team won a tournament in Dallas. The team won a silver cowboy boot, which she displays prominently in her home. Another cool memory was playing in a scrimmage with her men's team on the ice where the NHL’s Florida Panthers play, at what’s now Amerant Bank Arena in Sunrise. “That was fantastic,” she says. 

Run, Ronne, Run: To stay in shape while not on the ice, Apicella has a variety of go-to activities, including going to Burn Boot Camps, rollerblading and training for and completing Disney half-marathons. She’s had one major injury, a torn ACL in 2010. But that was from playing softball. “All my (hockey) teammates, of course,” says Apicella, “said I’m not playing softball again.”  



Mark Gordon

Mark Gordon is the managing editor of the Business Observer. He has worked for the Business Observer since 2005. He previously worked for newspapers and magazines in upstate New York, suburban Philadelphia and Jacksonville.

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