FiGURE SKATER Adrienne Petrillo met ice-hockey goalie Will Ott by gliding up to him at the York Ice Arena and saying,
Ott didn't hear "Ott."
"I thought she said, 'You're hot,' " he recalled.
That was four years ago, when York, Pa., native Petrillo was 17 and her New Cumberland-based goaltender crush was 16. By the time the teens straightened out the mixup, they were in love.
Today, the romance that started with an on-ice meet-cute continues on ice, Disney style.
"Disney on Ice," to be precise. Petrillo and Ott are a for-real twosome in the 40-person cast of "Frozen," which, like its onscreen counterpart, is the most successful such production, ever.
The show's East Coast tour began in Orlando, Fla., in September. Christmas Day, it arrives in South Philly at the Wells Fargo Center for 27 performances in 11 days.
The couple skates every show. In the all-characters-on-deck opener, they appear as Ariel and Prince Eric from "The Little Mermaid."
Soon thereafter, to the squealing delight of thousands of smallish, princess-dressed spectators, the royal sisters du jour take to the rink. That's when the area couple splits up and gets harder to recognize.
If you look real hard, you might spot Ott in Elsa's icy coronation, or Petrillo as a dandelion in Olaf the snowman's show-stopping "In Summer."
Later, according to an anonymous source, Ott plays the posterior of carrot-crazed reindeer Sven.
So, Petrillo's not Elsa or Anna. Ott isn't evil Hans or kindly Kristoff. Still, the gig's pretty great for the first-time pro skating pair.
Petrillo has skated in singles competition for years, and has tested up to U.S. Figure Skating's senior level. She said she's always dreamed of skating for Disney on Ice.
Ott, however, grew up learning to block shots - not twirl and lift a partner. "I played hockey from age 10," he explained.
When they first met, "I would show off for him, do some spins, do some jumps," said Petrillo.
Ott, then a high-school senior, showed his swagger by speeding. After a crash into the rink's boards, he changed tacks. "I just watched her most of the time and told her how good she was," he said. It worked.
When hockey season rolled around, "Will wanted me to play," said Petrillo. She had a pair of hockey skates, but hadn't played on a team. "I told him if I have to play hockey, you should play my sport." He was game.
Petrillo reassured her family she wouldn't get hurt, joined a co-ed club, donned pads and soon learned the joy of getting "to hit people," she said.
She also joined Ott in rooting for his favorite Flyers, taking him to games in South Philly, naming their cat "Claw'd Giroux."
Keeping up his part of the bargain, Ott, one of four hockey-playing brothers, strapped on his first pair of toe-picked blades. "My mom always wanted a figure skater" in the family, he said.
The move, said Petrillo, took guts. "Most hockey players wouldn't be willing to try figure skating," she said, "There's an idea that it's girly."
Ott admitted a couple of the guys at the rink made fun of him. Moreover, the switch was a tough one.
"It's very difficult, not an easy transformation," said longtime York Ice Arena GM Mike Cleveland, who coached Ott's midget team and knew Petrillo from her childhood. "Skating is skating, but it's a lot different on a pair of figure skates than it is on a pair of hockey skates."
Figure skating, he said, involves expression and grace, something that doesn't necessarily come easy to a hardscrabble goalie.
Ott, however, was "totally up for it," said Petrillo.
Talkin' about practice
Up early, too. The couple's routine included rising (in their respective family homes - this is Disney, after all) at 5:15 a.m. for 6 o'clock practice. Later weekday mornings, Ott would work for his mom's web-design firm. Petrillo studied entrepreneurship and writing at York College.
Afternoons, evenings and weekends, they taught the rink's learn-to-skate program, volunteered for Special Olympics and kept score for hockey games. Ott continued to play goalie. Petrillo still competed as a single.
"They were [at the rink] frequently," said Cleveland, "as employees, working on their programs, working on the pairs stuff."
York skate mom Melody Olver enrolled her middle daughter in lessons with Petrillo and sought out Ott for hockey advice for her son. At the Arena six or seven days a week, Olver often saw the couple there. "I would watch them practice outside the rink. There were times he almost dropped her. It was very nerve-wracking," she said.
The lifts were hardest. "I fell a few times," said Ott.
Olver and her family grew close with Petrillo and Ott. "Will and Adrienne fell in love with my three kids," she said. The feeling was mutual. "My kids treat them like celebrities."
When Ott hinted around about a proposal, Olver was all over it.
One day, she said she and Ott were "sitting at a competition, just shooting ideas around, and I was pestering Will about when he was going to ask the question . . . I said the State Games of America were coming up [in August 2013]. 'Why don't you get permission from the judges to do it then?' "
He took the advice. Got a ring and flowers. On competition day, Petrillo skated to "Once Upon a December." While she took a bow, it was Ott's turn to glide to her. He didn't say anything. Just got down on one knee.
She said yes. Her mascara ran.
They didn't take a lot of time to celebrate. Instead, they ramped up their practice to prep for a spring audition with Disney, right after an "on Ice" show in Hershey. In their interview, they asked to skate as a pair. In May, they got the job. In July, they went to rehearse in Orlando.
Soon, she was a redhead in a seashell bikini top and turquoise fishtail. He was her seafaring suitor.
As for their real-life fairytale ending? The tour has shelved their plans to buy a house, and they haven't set a wedding date. They have decided on the venue.
"We definitely know it's gonna be on ice," Petrillo said.