By Megan MacDonald
No matter what level of hockey you play, you never forget your first call to the game. For Olympic gold medalist, Tessa Bonhomme, that call was met with mixed reviews.
“I started playing hockey at my babysitters house on the street. Her son and daughter, Kaillie and Brett, played on the same outdoor hockey team and Shawna asked me if I wanted to play on their team as well. My father wasn’t too fond of the idea, but my mother knew I wanted to play so she gathered some extra hockey gear from neighbors and off I went!”
Bonhomme wasn’t the only one in the family who heard the call to hockey, “My grandfather Conrad Bonhomme was a great hockey player as well as [my] dad. My Father went to Clarkson University on scholarship.”
With hockey in her blood, Bonhomme didn’t lack in the support department.
“My mom was the perfect hockey mom and my cousins and aunts and uncles were always around supporting me throughout my career. My sister has always been my rock, always there to listen and encourage me, not quite sure I’d be where I am without her.” said Bonhomme, “I play the game because I love it, but when things get tough I know I can always go back home to Sudbury and they are all there for me.”
It wasn’t just family that Bonhomme had in her corner, she also had the support of her coaches.
“My dad coached me quite a bit growing up, but two other coaches that come to mind are Wally Johnson and Rod Schutt. Wally was my first coach in boys AA hockey who gave me a chance and helped me learn and understand the game. Rod Schutt was always teaching me to be a respectable player, discipline and coach-ability were main things I took from him. He played in the NHL so I was always keen on listening to him.”
Like any young aspiring hockey player, Bonhomme dreamed of skating with the greats. If she had her pick, Bonhomme says, “Either Mario Lemieux or Wayne Gretzky. On the female side I’d pick Geraldine Heaney.”
Bonhomme played for the Sudbury Lady Wolves and the Lasalle Secondary School hockey team and eventually captained both before heading to Ohio State to play for the Buckeyes. She was drafted first overall in 2010 by the Canadian Women’s Hockey League and currently plays for the Toronto Furies.
Bonhomme not only excelled at hockey, but competed in soccer, basketball, cross country, and flag football in her high school years. She was the Most Valuable Player of her basketball league as a point guard in 2000. In the same year, she was honoured as Most Valuable Player for flag football.
Recognizing the importance of the role sports played in her formative years, Bonhomme believes, “that all little girls should have the opportunity to take part in any sport or club. Whether they like sports or music and arts, I think that it’s important for them to have the chance to build their self confidence. Sports definitely has taught me a lot about myself, I wouldn’t change anything that has happened to me in my career to date.”
She describes herself off-ice as being, “Out going, fun loving. I like to make the most of things. The happiest people don’t have the most of everything, they make the most of everything. I like to live by that.”
On the international level, Bonhomme has been a part of the Canadian Women’s organization since 2004 and in nine years has racked up six gold medals (IIHF World’s Womens Championships in 2007 & 2012, Women’s 4 Nations Cup in 2010, Air Canada Cup in 2005 & 2006, and an Olympic gold in 2012) and three silver (IIHF’s World Women’s Championships 2009 & 2011 and Canada Cup 2009).
Bonhomme attributes her most memorable accomplishments to her time with the Canadian Women’s team saying, “Vancouver 2010 is pretty hard to beat, but I’ll always remember my first world championships I competed in, it was in Winnipeg in 2007.”
In preparation for the upcoming season, Bonhomme described her typical off-season day consisting of, “Heading to the gym in the morning at Journey to Excel and training with Bryan Marshall then hit the ice for an hour with Adrian Lomonaco for a skills session. After that I usually try to relax and enjoy the nice weather, hit up a jays game, or TFC game. If I’m lucky enough I’ll head home to Sudbury to spend some time on long lake.”
With so much accomplished at such a young age, Bonhomme stays humble. Her goal for this season is, “To be more consistent in my play, become more of an offensive threat, [and] always trying to be a better teammate to help my team win” and is looking forward to, “Training full time and having a busy season. It’s the closest thing we get to a true NHL season.”
An inspiration both on and off the ice to many female players, Tessa Bonhomme shows women what hockey is all about, passion, perseverance and proving that it’s okay to show up the boys!