Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Feature Article in The Cambridge Times

Well, I know I've started to get settled in Canada when my local newspaper runs a feature story about me!

Here it is, from The Cambridge Times, December 1, 2011

Goodwill event an eye-opener
Cambridge hockey players helps promote game in Iceland

by Bill Doucet

Mary Bonevelle now understands where the Mighty Ducks movies found the inspiration to feature a tough Iceland team in Part 2 of the franchise.

The Cambridge hockey player saw that style first-hand in the second annual Icelandair Ice Hockey Cup last month as part of the TWOW Panthers team.

The team travelled to Iceland as part of a goodwill trip to promote women’s hockey in Iceland and raise money for Iceland’s Red Cross. Part of the price of admission to the games and the entry fee for teams went to the organization. Olympian Sami Jo Small accompanied the team to do a clinic with Iceland players.

One of the teams they faced from the home island featured some “young” female players, said the 38 year old. Their style of play was an eye-opener.

“They were very fast, but also very rough. Even rougher than us,” Bonevelle said with a laugh.
And that was the attitude the players had during the game – enjoying the tournament and playing for the right reasons. According to Bonevelle, Iceland only has three ice rinks on the entire island and women’s hockey isn’t a popular sport. The women’s national team is ranked 29th in the world and plays in the fourth division championships.

The lack of interest actually surprised her, as Iceland is off the coast of Norway and Sweden, where hockey is huge. Then again, Bonevelle moved here in 2008 from Michigan and admits that women’s hockey in that state is probably on the same scale as Iceland.

In fact, she didn’t even learn to skate until she found out she was moving to Canada back in 2008, and ended up being the only adult in her class of four and five year olds.

Bonevelle was a quick learner though and joined the K-W Women’s Recreational Hockey League, of which she is now a board member.

The trip to Iceland didn’t come through the league though, but from a chance meeting with a player from Toronto at this past summer’s Stephanie Boyd Female Hockey School in Gravenhurst.

The woman told Bonevelle about the trip and who to contact. She was put on a waiting list, but was called two days later and offered a spot. She jumped at the chance.

“When am I ever going to get another chance to go to Iceland,” she said, adding that she had a teammate from Cambridge on the Panthers, Stephanie Tuck.

The Panthers beat Iceland’s Valkryja 6-0, TWOW Northern Lightweights 3-1 and lost to The Whistler Bearers 7-1. To win they had to beat SR from Iceland and, after going down 2-0, came back with a 6-2 victory to become the first Canadian women’s team to win a hockey tournament in Iceland.
The games were interesting though, as the other Iceland team they played was comprised of “older” women and sometimes had to be told where to stand for faceoffs. And the referees were – questionable.

“Even though the games were competitive, nobody was complaining about the referees and taking it to the next level. There was just some whining on the bench,” she said.

“The first purpose of the trip was goodwill between the two countries and trying to promote women’s hockey.”

Besides a little headshaking on the ice, Iceland itself offered a bit of a culture shock.

“One of the strangest things I saw there was the way the Icelandic players carry their equipment. They have these big plastic crates, which look like milk crates but a little bit bigger, and they tie a string to it, put their equipment in and drag it around,” she said.

The capital city of Reykjavik, which makes up about two-thirds of the population of the whole island, wasn’t exactly Toronto either.

Since the city is known to be relatively crime free, women would leave their baby carriages and strollers outside shops and restaurants with their babies still in them.

Bonevelle noticed the same practice outside of bars in the evening.

After the experience, she’s hoping to get a Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge team together for next year’s October tournament.

“There’s already five Canadian teams there, so I don’t know how many more spots there are for teams. It’s worth a try,” she said.

Cambridge’s Mary Bonevelle (back row, purple bandanna) poses with her TWOW?Panthers teammates after winning the Icelandair Ice Hockey Cup last month in Iceland