Raised in nearby Mississauga, the chance to play in the inaugural CWHL All-Star Game was a dream come true for Michelle Bonello. Contested at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, Bonello’s presence was a heartwarming subplot to the game, the chance for fans to appreciate a homegrown talent who has dedicated many years to the Toronto Furies, elite ball hockey in the Greater Toronto Area, along with a strong presence on Canada’s inline hockey team, winning a world championship in 2013.
With the announcement that the CWHL shall host a second All-Star Game in January 2016, it resulted in Bonello earning the chance to return to one of the game’s landmark events. Among six Furies named as participants, including fellow blueliner Sena Suzuki, the first international player to compete in the All-Star Game, the chance to compete in a second straight All-Star Game represents more than just a career milestone for Bonello. It is a source of motivation that gratifies the hard work and effort that she has exerted throughout her exceptional career.
“I was still taken by surprised when I received the email from Brenda that I had been chosen for the Allstar game. I try not to take anything for granted or expect anything to be given to me, so I am continuously pushing to better myself and earn my ice time.”
As the second All-Star Game shall take place once again at Air Canada Centre (on January 23), it allows Bonello the chance to grace the ice there again, extending her glorious hockey dream. Having played for the Mississauga Jr. Chiefs during her teens, those formative years were also spent watching NHL hockey with her brothers. The chance to be on the same ice as the heroes represented a great validation for the women’s game and its growing importance.
In reflecting what it was like to participate in the inaugural All-Star Game, the initial experience involved absorbing all the sights and sounds. Taking part in an empowering chapter of Canadian women’s hockey history, the most unique aspect of the chance to be on such hallowed ice was the chance to look up and see the young fans in attendance, sharing in a very jubilant moment,
“It was pretty surreal playing on the ice at Air Canada Center. During warm up I found myself staring up into the stands at the fans trying to grasp everything. I have been so blessed and privileged with experiences hockey has provided me. My favorite part was seeing all the younger hockey stars cheering on the All-Stars during the game.”
During the inaugural edition of the game, Bonello suited up for Team White, joined by fellow Furies Sami Jo Small and Natalie Spooner. Among five members of Team White that took part in the Fastest Skater event at the All-Star Skills competition, Bonello would win her heat.
Heading into the second All-Star Game, Bonello is among 17 players that are making a repeat appearance, part of a historic group in CWHL lore. Adding to the sense of history was the fact that Bonello and Jess Jones, a forward from the Brampton Thunder who competed for the opposing Team Red, were the first alumnae from the Mercyhurst Lakers to compete in the CWHL All-Star Game.
Considering that Mercyhurst was a national powerhouse which featured players such as Meghan Agosta, Bailey Bram, Vicki Bendus, Jesse Scanzano and Kelley Steadman, the chance for Bonello and Jones to extend Mercyhurst’s proud women’s hockey legacy in such a significant event is a tremendous point of pride. As a side note, Jones shall be making a repeat appearance in the second All-Star Game. Perhaps she will have the opportunity to call Bonello a teammate once again.
While Bonello looks forward with great anticipation to make history again with Jones et al, she also has her sights set on a strong second half to the 2015-16 CWHL season. In reflecting on the first half of the season, one that saw the Furies endure a fourth place finish, the chance for bigger victories ahead may have occurred off the ice.
Like so many players in a wide array of sports, Bonello revels in the road trips. Seeing them as a chance to particiapte in team building, while also getting to know her teammates as people, it is part of the unforgettable and invaluable experience that makes being part of a team highly cherished. While the All-Star Game shall present Bonello with the chance to make new friends, her favorite moment so far this season was the Furies first road trip, getting the chance to know teammates new to the Blue and White,
“My favorite moment with the Furies so far this season was probably our first road trip. I love road trips and you always get to know your teammates more so, so i look forward to them every time.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credits: Jess Bazal