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  • Writer's pictureShannon Ferguson

It All Started With a Broken Finger

I've always been a big believer that everything happens for a reason. Sometimes it's a hard pill to swallow especially when things go wrong in life and sometimes, during those hard times, the last thing you want to hear is that it's "for a reason".

Hindsight is 20/20 and looking back on the path that led you to the good things in your life is really important because it can help you see that the hard times were worth it and if one of those hard times had never happened, your life might be on a completely different trajectory today.

In 2016, I was having a rough go of it. I had lost my Mom the fall before after going through a divorce earlier that same year and despite starting my first marketing & events business, I was dealing with complicated grief which enveloped my days and left my heart extremely heavy. About six weeks after my Mom's one year anniversary it was a week before Christmas and my loneliness was at an all time high. The Christmas before, it seemed like the whole world had come together to support me, ensuring that I would make it through such a big holiday that has always been a staple celebration in my family. A year later, I felt forgotten and lonlier than ever, not sure what to do with myself. It's the only Christmas in my life that I didn't put up a tree. I was lost in my grief.

During that same time, the minor professional hockey team I was doing some marketing for had kicked off their inaugural season just a few weeks earlier. One of their players, Kris McCarthy, had been a staple in the league and had decided to sign with the team. Although having a degree in business, he too was trying to find his way and ended up taking a day job in demolition. During a game in mid-December, he got in a fight behind the net (he had a reputation as a fighter in the league so this wasn't anything abnormal). Somehow, his hand caught the back of the other guy's helmet and snap- his right index finger broke in half.

After emergency surgery that included two metal pins and a heavy-duty splint, the realization sunk in for Kris that he wouldn't be able to get back on the ice for at least 10 weeks. Then it hit him that his full time day job in demolition was also a no-go. With all of his income halted, he used his amazing negotiation skills to get a job working for the team's front office as the Sales & Marketing Director. He had held this same position for other teams in the past and knew he'd be able to rock it so it made total sense.

Knee-deep in my own world of grief and despair, I had no clue who Kris was or that he had broken his finger. The same night Kris broke his finger I actually spent sprawled on my living room floor, bawling to my best friend on the phone until 4am about how I just couldn't go on. It was the only time in my life (and it's never happened since, thank God) that I had felt such a deep feeling of despair. I remember it as the lowest point of my grief, the day I hit the basement floor.

Two days later (and I know this because I went back years later and checked my phone records when I realized it) I got a call from one of the team's staff telling me Kris would be taking over the marketing and that I could still help if I wanted to. I felt a bit perturbed thinking who the hell is this guy and who is he to come in and just take over?

It was a couple of days before Christmas and I had just left a yoga class (I hate yoga but was trying something new to "fix" myself). It was snowing those big, fluffy kinds of snowflakes and I called Kris to set up a meeting. He was at the rink across the street so I stopped by in my sweaty yoga clothes, no makeup, and introduced myself. Months later, the owner of the team who was also in the room told us that moment we met was like something out of a movie but I remember going in with my back up a bit thinking "Who the heck does this Kris guy think he is?"

I went in to shake his right hand, which was all freshly bandaged, awkwardly we both switched to shake with our left hands instead and it's almost like, at that moment, our minds melded together. So much has happened since that handshake; from us managing the marketing and sales for that team as well as another team in the league to building our business together and growing our personal relationship. We began as co-workers and fought the urge to officially begin dating for months, even though we were together 24/7 and were finishing each other's sentences from the get-go. We didn't want a relationship to get in the way of what a great team we were but eventually it just naturally progressed and we've been together for over three and a half years now (we include the time it took us to figure it all out too).

During that time, we used our first-hand experience selling sponsorship to create our startup FanSaves, which started as an app that sports teams could sell as a sponsorship option to businesses, allowing the business to offer discounts and deals to fans. Since then the business has evolved so much as we're now helping all kinds of organizations with our platform. But the most growth has come within both of us.

Kris is my co-founder and the COO of our business and he's a driving force behind how quickly our business has grown. He never had to go back to his demolition job and he played out the rest of that season once his finger healed. The team we met working for ended up folding in 2018 but that same year we won a championship with the other team in the league we were doing the sales, marketing and game-day operations for. So it all worked out and gave Kris his third championship ring in his seven years with the league.

And me? Well, I like to think Kris unknowingly pulled me out of my darkest days that night he broke his finger. His motivation and passion brought me back to life and gave me a reason to get my shit together. His presence motivated me, and still motivates me everyday, and because of him I don't have those feelings of loneliness or despair anymore. I feel extremely lucky to have him as a co-founder, boyfriend and best friend and to live the life we have built together.

There have been many things that have happened throughout our relationship, both personal and business related, that have influenced our lives and our future, creating new paths where we didn't realize there were any. We truly do believe everything happens for a reason and we will always believe that the reason Kris broke his finger was for us to meet and change the world and I'd say we're well on our way.

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