Akin to the women that grace the ball hockey court, the domain of inline hockey is also populated by accomplished athletes whose love of the game, and ability to excel, also extends to the frozen perimeter of the rink. To reflect on the women that have competed for Canada at the FIRS Inline Hockey World Championships, the connection to women’s ice hockey is significant.
The roster of the 2016 Canadian team that captured the gold at the Inline Worlds in Asiago, Italy, the fifth in national team history, was filled with numerous ice hockey stars. Among them were Lindsay Grigg, the first NWHL player to gain a spot on Canada’s roster, along with Brampton Thunder alum LaToya Clarke, who was bestowed the honor of the team captaincy.
In addition, there were other familiar names, including several that even a casual fan of the CWHL’s Toronto Furies would likely recognize. Three women that have donned the blue and white jersey of the Furies, along with one from their former rivals down the QEW, the Burlington Barracudas, were part of Team Canada’s gold medal winning roster in 2016.
Headlining this group was goaltender Kendra Fisher, a charter member of the Furies and a multiple competitor at the Esso Women’s Nationals. Making her debut with the national team in a silver medal outcome in 2010, sharing goaltending duties with Amanda Squire, Clarke and Jackie Jarrell were among her teammates. Between the pipes when Canada’s inline team captured their previous gold at the 2012 edition of the FIRS Inline Hockey World Championships in Bucaramanga, Colombia, there was plenty of emotion four years later.
Adding to the emotion of another gold medal in Fisher’s revered career was the fact that she became a mom just a few days before the tournament’s opening faceoff. In an October 2016 piece for Women’s Hockey Life, Fisher shared her experiences,
“He (Finley) is just several weeks old. He was born on the Friday (before the Inline Worlds) and I had to fly to Italy on the Monday for the tournament. It was the biggest whirlwind of a week. I had not slowed down enough to fully comprehend and put things together. Then I was leaving for Italy, I had not slept for a few days. I am never going to remember it all (laughs).”
Alyssa Baldin was among the competitors making their debut for Canada’s inline team in 2016. Being able to call Fisher a teammate for the first time, it bridged generations in Furies history.
Sharing in the jubilation of a Clarkson Cup championship alongside Bonello in 2014, they enjoyed a second championship in the calendar year. Capturing a provincial ball hockey championship as members of the Niagara Inferno, other competitors on the roster included Furies prospect Julie Allen, and Melissa Boal, a former teammate of Baldin when both graced the ice with Detroit’s Wayne State University.
Subsequently, gaining the opportunity to capture a third major championship with Bonello not only cemented their hockey legacies, it strengthened their friendship.
As a delighted Baldin reflects, she was emboldened by Bonello to take this next leap in her career, evident of the leadership skills of the Furies veteran.
Calling Bonello a teammate at three different levels of play only served to make the inline experience so much more superb. With her confidence bolstered, the result was more than just a gold medal, it was the addition of a fascinating segment to her career,
“Michelle was actually the person who convinced me to try Inline hockey and try out for Team Canada. She believed in me right from the start and was a huge part of our team. It was awesome to have her around!”
Of note, Baldin and Bonello are not the first women to lay claim to a Clarkson Cup and FIRS Inline Gold in a career. In addition to these two tremendous competitors, they share this historic achievement with an exclusive sorority consisting of just five other notable players.
Among them is Cathy Chartrand, a member of Canada’s 2002 FIRS championship team, the first to capture a gold medal. Luminaries such as Andria Hunter and Cherie Piper were also part of this historic team. Of note, Chartrand would have to wait 15 years until hoisting the Clarkson Cup, getting her first chance to hoist the coveted title in 2017 with Les Canadiennes de Montreal.
In 2004, Meghan Agosta, Charline Labonte and Caroline Ouellette were among the celebrated players on Canada’s gold medal entry. While Agosta and Ouellette were teammates on Montreal’s Clarkson Cup championship team in 2012, Labonte was in the same position as Chartrand, waiting until 2017 for her chance to have her name etched on the Clarkson Cup. Taking into account that all three were teammates at the 2006, 2010 and 2014 Winter Games, they have achieved a rare triple in their glorious careers.
The fifth player to share in this unique honor is Lisa-Marie Breton Lebreux, a co-founder of the Montreal Stars and the CWHL. Part of the 2005 gold medal team, Breton-Lebreux has made Clarkson Cup history twice, becoming the first captain to win the Cup three times, while also making her mark as the first player to win a Cup as a coach, achieving this feat in 2017.
A ten-year veteran of the inline national team and a charter member of the Furies, Bonello is the embodiment of the sports’ potential to shape players into heroes. Having balanced her commitments to the team, while spending numerous seasons on the Furies defensive unit, it was testament to her dedication to the game, finding a rich and rewarding fulfillment that is enhanced by the presence of other distinguished competitors, fostering a sense of friendship that is everlasting.
“The thing I enjoy most about playing is that we are a family. Everyone has everyone’s back, there’s no selfishness or hidden agendas. Everyone is there for each other, striving to win gold. Hanging out off (the) ice is always fun times.
That past week in Italy, I laughed so much I left with abs (laughs). The memories and stories are something I will always cherish.”
As enduring as Bonello’s time has been with the national inline team, perhaps the most endearing aspect is the chance to have shared in this journey with a fellow competitor that have called each other teammates for over a decade in numerous facets of the game. Having first graced the ice with Jackie Jarrell at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pennsylvania, it signified the astonishing beginning to a dominant time in program history.
Before Mercyhurst welcomed the likes of Meghan Agosta, Bailey Bram, Jess Jones, Hilary Pattenden, Jesse Scanzano and Kelley Steadman, to name a few, Bonello and Jackie Jarrell were a pair of pioneers. Bonello gained Conference All-Rookie Honors, while amassing a pair of College Hockey American All-Star nods.
Jarrell, who has also been recognized as Belleville, Ontario’s Female Athlete of the Year, appeared in 99 games for the Lakers, majoring in Sports Medicine. She would log a career-best 19 points in the 2003-04 season. The recipient of the MVP award at the 2010 World Women’s Inline Championships, Jarrell also gives back to the game by assisting aspiring scholar athletes to reach the NCAA level.
In addition, she also has an amazing entrepreneurial spirit, having launched GOLD Performances Training in 2014. Her acumen as a personal trainer, along with devotion to fitness and nutrition included the chance to serve as a trainer for the OHL Combine, along with Fitness Testing at the NHL/CHL Top Prospects Event in 2015.
Of note, Jarrell will be suiting up for Canada’s inline team for the 10th time in her amazing career, competing at the 2017 edition of the FIRS Worlds in Nanjing, China. Fittingly, she will call Bonello a teammate once again, who returns for her seventh run with Canada. Reflecting on an unforgettable run with Bonello as a teammate, a strong sense of respect rises to the surface for a jubilant Jarrell,
“I have been fortunate to play with several great players during my career both ice hockey and inline hockey. Michelle Bonello and I started playing at Mercyhurst together the same year and since then has always been a great friend of mine.
I can honestly say she is one of the best defensemen I have ever played with. I am certainly glad that I do not have to play against her. I do not think I have ever seen her lose a 1-on-1 battle; she is a total workhorse and never takes a shift off!!
It is so rewarding playing with so many great players. As female athletes we play because we love the game, not because we make millions. I am proud of all my teammates as we are all are juggling schooling commitments and careers but still find the time to train and represent our country.”
A recipient of the presitigous Brodrick Trophy in 2008, capturing the Canadian Interuniversity Sport scoring title with 50 points, Brayden Ferguson was one of five alums from the St. Francis Xavier X-Women selected in the 2010 CWHL Draft. Drafted by the now defunct Burlington Barracudas, Ferguson took to the ice in their final season. Three of her St. FX teammates, Amanda Church, Rebecca Davies and Christina Davis were all selected by the Furies, while Lindsay Brown was a Brampton Thunder draft pick.
Coincidentally, several of Ferguson’s teammates in the Barracudas final season were also accomplished competitors off the ice. Ashley Stephenson, who scored the last game-winning goal for the Barracudas captured a silver medal in women’s baseball at the 2015 Pan American Games. Blueliner Amber Bowman established herself as a world record holder in numerous World Firefighter Challenges.
Scoring the championship clinching goal for Canada in 2016, one of the biggest in Ferguson’s hockey career, it was a significant achievement that added luster to a rapidly expanding ball hockey legacy, quickly emerging as one of the finest of her generation.
“My first gold medal with Canada inline was this year in Italy. We lost two years ago to the USA in France and we knew that we would once again have to wait another year to fight for gold.
This year when we found out we were playing the US again in the finals there was a feeling of revenge in our dressing room and we all knew we weren’t going home without the gold. With about one minute left, and up by two (goals), the feeling finally sunk in that I was going to get a gold medal wearing the Canadian leaf.”
For a Furies team that can boast a Clarkson Cup title, Toronto’s first major hockey championship since 1975, along with serving as host franchise for the first three CWHL All-Star Games, symbolizing their current evolution as the sister club of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the achievements of its players, past and present, such as Baldin, Bonello and Fisher in other facets of the game is just as relevant.
With Nanjing, China serving as host city for the 2017 edition of the FIRS Worlds, the three aforementioned players join Ferguson and Jarrell in the opportunity to call each other teammates once again, aspiring for back-to-back gold medals. Even before the opening faceoff takes place, all these remarkable women can be considered champions, revered as inspiring role models, employing grace and sportsmanship as contributors to the development of an exciting and sometimes underrated chapter of women’s hockey history.
"All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated"
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