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Tessa Bonhomme’s message to U.S. women: Watch out for Canada in Sochi

Chris Zelkovich
Eh Game

Tessa Bonhomme knows exactly where she's going to be and exactly what she's going to be doing when the Sochi Olympics women's hockey tournament opens next month.

She's going to be in front of her TV set, screaming unabashedly and not afraid to incur the wrath of neighbours with her vociferous support of Team Canada. No wallowing in self-pity or turning her back in anger for this young woman, who two months ago was cut from the team she helped win a gold medal at the last Olympics.

And despite a rough winter for the team that included a gut-wrenching coaching change and four losses to the hated Americans, she also has little doubt who will be wearing gold medals around their necks when the tournament ends.

While many are writing off the Canadians this time around, Bonhomme says things aren't as dark as they look. She points out that the team went through a similar thing in 2002 -- losing every pre-tournament game to the Americans -- before winning gold in Salt Lake City.

``They can turn it around," says the 28-year-old Sudbury, Ont., native, who represented Canada in four world championships as well as the 2010 Olympics. ``They've got so much experience on that team with the likes of Hayley Wickenheiser, Jayna Hefford, Carolyn Ouellette. These girls have been through the wash a few times and they know what it's all about.

``If there's one thing I know about this team, adversity doesn't scare them one bit. It actually ignites their fire even more. The U.S. can have these past few games all they want. I know these girls are hungry and are looking forward to meeting them in the final. If they do, all I can say to the U.S. is watch out because we've got a lot of experience on our bench and a lot of girls who've won national championships at the NCAA and CIS levels."

She even sees an upside to the unexpected departure of head coach Dan Church, a move that caught everyone off guard. There are a lot of first-year players on the team, women unaccustomed to dealing with the media microscope they'll face in Sochi. In a bizarre way, the media frenzy that surrounded Church's departure might be a good thing, she says.

``For them, this was good experience in dealing with distractions," she says. ``I'm sure they took a lot away from that."

Bonhomme harbours no ill feelings toward the team that ended her dream of defending gold in Sochi, even though it was a very painful day for her. She was called in for a meeting during training camp and knew instinctively that it wasn't going to end well.

When her worst fears were confirmed, she instantly called the person she always turns to at important moments in her life: her mother, Debbie.

``My mom has always been the rock in my life," she says.

That's one reason why she was so moved by an Olympic-themed Procter & Gamble Canada video that she's helping to promote. The moving video salutes all those mothers who pick up their daughters when the suffer setbacks -- while presumably making sure their whites are whiter and brights brighter.

``I actually was crying before the 20-second mark," she says. ``It really hits home. It was always my parents, and especially my mom, who were there to give you that soft hug or kiss on the head. That video brought back all of that to me, and not just hockey. It was everything.

``It's almost like somebody wrote it for me and my mom."

Bonhomme is one of those ultra-positive people who sees the bright side of every situation. She even sees a positive in getting cut.

``I know it sounds strange, but I was lucky to be cut in the first bout of cuts," she says.``It gave me time to really go home and spend time with my family and re-evalute where I am in my life and where I want to be in the next five years."

Right now, that might be Leafs TV, where she has worked as an on-air host the past couple of years.

``I'm kind of feeling my way around slowly but surely," she says. ``It surprised me how much I fell in love with the work. I don't know how many people can say they wake up every day and love going to their job. I found something I love almost as much I love playing hockey."

As for playing hockey, Bonhomme isn't ready to shut that door.

``I don't think I'm ready to make that decision right now," she says. I'm going to take until this summer to decide what my plans are.

``Do I still love the sport of hockey? Yes. Can I picture my life without it? Absolutely not. Do I still have the will and drive to compete? Yes, which is why I'm still playing in the CWHL."



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