Published on August 06, 2014
Athletes from the Lafleche Minor Hockey Association had the chance to play ball hockey in the middle of summer when they were hosted by McDonald’s Canada and Olympic gold medalist Tessa Bonhomme, as part of the atoMc Hockey program. Times-Herald photo by Katie Brickman
Published on August 06, 2014
Former Olympian, Tessa Bonhomme high-fives Jessica Bouffard from the Lafleche Flyers during a game of ball hockey at the Kinsmen Arena on Wednesday afternoon. Times-Herald photo by Katie Brickman
Olympic gold medallist celebrates hockey with atoMc team
Many young hockey players often dream of playing for the Stanley Cup or even an Olympic gold medal one day.
On Wednesday, members from the Lafleche Minor Hockey Association got to play ball hockey with Tessa Bonhomme, an Olympic gold medallist in women’s hockey.
“It is a chance of a lifetime,” said Rene Bouffard, the coach of the Lafleche Minor Hockey atoMc red team. “They were excited.”
The players got this opportunity through the support of McDonald’s and Hockey Canada.
The atoMc hockey program is a 25-year relationship between the two organizations with the goal of providing support to atom teams across Canada.
The program gives teams a full set of primary game jerseys and socks, as well as coaching material and other items.
“I think it just shows the importance of making the game a little bit more affordable. I think it shows that the program is great and it stresses sportsmanship, teamwork and discipline,” stated Bonhomme. “It is not just McDonald’s paying for jerseys and slapping their logo on it … it is really understanding the importance of team play. I think the program has done very well for itself and the success that it has had speaks for itself.”
Bonhomme was in Moose Jaw for the afternoon to play ball hockey with the team at the Kinsmen Arena. After the fun game, the team went to McDonald’s for lunch.
The Sudbury native and gold medallist couldn’t stop smiling as she leisurely played with the players.
“First and foremost, to be able to share the passion that I have for hockey with young kids through the atoMc program is the most fun,” Bonhomme said. “They are just discovering a game that is a love of mine. It brings me back to the times that I used to play, whether it is ball hockey in a rink like this, street hockey out in front of our house or even outdoor hockey in the wintertime.”
For many smaller communities, having access to a program like this is extremely helpful in keeping kids in hockey.
“We are always drawing from the same local businesses and it is the same parents donating their time or money,” explained Bouffard. “To have outside money from another organization that loves the game as much as we do just makes it so much easier.”
The team is made of up players from Lafleche and Kincaid, as neither town had enough kids to make a team.
“This actually helps two communities out, so this is just fantastic,” said Bouffard. “It is amazing that two towns were able to converge like they did and become a team.”
When the program started, it helped 24,000 kids. Now, it has almost doubled to about 50,000 players. Over 1,275 teams have been approved to participate in the program and every province and territory is represented.
“They are lucky that their parents have put them in a sport like this and they are lucky that there are programs like atoMc hockey that helps reduce the cost of the game for their parents,” said Bonhomme.
Bonhomme has been successful at every level of her hockey career, but it hasn’t always been easy. She wanted to share her story with the young players as well when she was with them.
“My hockey story is a very bumpy road and one that I worked hard at,” she said. “I knew what I wanted and I was determined not to give up on it. It is not always a clear path and you aren’t always spoon-fed. To be able to share that … understanding, perseverance, discipline and passion can help you achieve your goals.”
As an added bonus to the afternoon, the Lafleche players were able to keep their jerseys.
Follow Katie on Twitter @katiebrickman.