By the time he was sixteen years old, some where heralding Rico Fata, born in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, as the next star in the NHL. Fata, who played one year as an under-age with his hometown Greyhounds, then spent his next three years of junior hockey with the OHL's London Knights.
In the end, Fata was the sixth overall draft selection of the Calgary Flames in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. Fata went to camp with the Flames, and that brought him to Japan where the Flames were opening the 1998-99 season. Still without a contract, and a survivor of the final cut at camp, Fata holds the unique distinction of being the only NHLer to sign his first pro contract in Japan. Hours after signing his contract, he made his NHL debut, but by the 20-game mark that season, he'd registered only one assist and spent the remainder of the year in the AHL.
The next year, Fata played just two games with Calgary, and yet again failed to make an impression on the Flames coaching staff. His third season in the organization he again spent in the AHL helping the Saint John Flames capture their first Calder Cup, while playing five games with the big club throughout the year. When he failed to crack the Calgary roster during the 2001-02 training camp, Rico Fata was placed on waivers.
The New York Rangers, impressed with Fata's skating and puck skills claimed the speedy winger but after just five games, all of which Fata was held scoreless, he was assigned to their AHL affiliate in Hartford. In 2002-03 Fata impressed the Rangers coaching staff enough to have him play in 36 games with the club before he was dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins just prior to the trading deadline. Upon his arrival in Pittsburgh, Fata was placed on a line with Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux and went on to register 13 points (5-8-13) in 27 games with the club.
The 2003-04 season marked Fata's first full season in the NHL, and with the opportunity to play on a regular basis, the former junior star went on to register 34 points (16-18-34). Following a lock-out year in 2004-05 that forced Fata to take his game to Italy, the former junior star split the early part of the 2005-06 season between Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL before being claimed off waivers by the Atlanta Thrashers in January, 2006.
Fata would compete in only 6 games with the Thrashers before he was claimed on waivers by the Washington Capitals.