Only a year ago, Tessa Bonhomme was the subject of a cover story in The Hockey News, which called her “The Face of Women’s Hockey.”
That face is yesterday’s news as far as Hockey Canada is concerned.
The axe unexpectedly fell on Bonhomme on Tuesday as the veteran defenceman was one of three players cut from the national women’s team. The others were fellow blueliner Brigette Lacquette and forward Jenelle Kohanchuk.
It was unexpected in that, while cuts were looming as Team Canada decides on its roster for the Sochi Olympics, the 28-year-old Bonhomme certainly did not suspect she would be one of the players cast aside.
Then again, a move like this probably should have been expected. Surprise roster moves in advance of big tournaments are commonplace for Hockey Canada and its national women’s program.
Think back to when four-time world champion and eventual Hockey Hall of Famer Angela James was inexplicably cut from the squad prior to the Nagano Games in 1998, when women's hockey made its Olympic debut.
Nancy Drolet, winner of six world titles, was the last player dropped from the 2002 Olympic roster. She unsuccessfully appealed the decision before the team went to Salt Lake City and won gold without her.
Gillian Ferrari, who was on that Salt Lake City roster and also won gold in Turin four years later, was likewise among the last cuts in 2010.
Last week, Canada went to the Four Nations Cup without several veterans, including Hayley Wickenheiser, its career scoring leader and long-time captain. They needed a rest, according to head coach Dan Church, although a disappointed Wickenheiser insisted she was just fine.
Bonhomme played in the tournament, which Canada won for the 13th time in 18 years. But now it’s her turn to be surprised and disappointed.
As Donna Spencer of The Canadian Press reported on Tuesday, Bonhomme was forced to miss some games this fall because of a crushed nerve she suffered in an Oct. 1 game, as well as a bout of shingles.
"Those are by no means excuses," Bonhomme told Spencer. "I would never rely on one of those for the reason I was playing bad. Maybe I just didn't perform up to the standard or up to par that they wanted and they decided to release me at the first chance they got.
"I've trusted the coaching staff from the get-go and I trust that they made the right decision. I have no doubt in my mind this team will be successful."
She’s enjoyed a high profile during her career, thanks to her appearances on “Wipeout Canada” and on “Battle of the Blades,” where she was the first female hockey player invited to compete. She teamed with figure skater David Pelletier to win that competition in 2011.
That visibility, fed by her good looks and outgoing personality, helped lead to a number of endorsement deals, a job with Leafs TV and the cover story in The Hockey News last fall.
Bonhomme says she'll resume her career in the Canadian Women's Hockey League while working toward a master's degree in speech pathology.
As for Hockey Canada, it must still cut three players from the women’s roster to get down to the Olympic limit of 21.
Only 12 players remain from the 2010 squad, including defencemen Meaghan Mikkelson and Catherine Ward. They’re among seven rearguards battling for six roster spots.
Two forwards will also be let go in addition to Kohanchuk, whose two-goal performance in the Four Nations Cup finale against Finland was not enough to save her from the chopping block.