5,000 CWHL fans take in Toronto Furies game at ACC
(pictured: Tessa Bonhomme and the Toronto Furies played on the Leafs’ home rink on Nov. 17)
The recently announced partnership between the Maple Leafs and the Toronto Furies of the CWHL was launched on Saturday night as the Air Canada Centre opened its doors, free of charge, to hockey fans.
On a night when the Leafs were originally slated to host the Ottawa Senators, the north end lower bowl at 40 Bay Street was filled to capacity as the Furies played host to Team Alberta. Hockey Hall of Famer Angela James and four-time Olympic medalist Jennifer Botterill performed the ceremonial opening faceoff to the delight of 5,000 fans.
With ACC host Andy Frost calling the goals and penalties and long-time organist Jimmy Holmstrom playing the melodies, much of the in-game experience resembled that of a Leafs game. While the players would never be mistaken for Dion Phaneuf or Jarome Iginla, a total of three Olympic gold medalists from Canada’s 2010 Olympic team took to the ice surface: Tessa Bonhomme and Rebecca Johnston from Toronto and Meaghan Mikkeslon from Alberta.
The Furies took the game 3-0 on the strength of their goaltender Christina Kessler. After the game, Toronto captain Bonhomme was all smiles. “The atmosphere was second to none,” Bonhomme said. “To fill up one side completely – they had to open up a couple of extra sections – it was amazing to see. It’s so cool to actually be able to play in an NHL rink like this. It’s something that you dream of. To be able to finally do that, we’re very thankful that MLSE put this on for us, and we’ll never forget it.”
Britni Smith, Jennifer Brine and Mallory DeLuce had the goals for Toronto. After the game, Mikkelson – while disappointed with her squad’s loss – expressed her excitement in the partnership that Team Alberta has formed with the Calgary Flames. “It adds a lot of credibility to our league, and it gives young female hockey players who dream of playing for Team Canada hopefully another dream there, to play in the CWHL,” she said. “It’s huge that the Flames and the Maple Leafs have stepped up to the plate, and it’s going to give the league a lot of exposure.”
It would be naive to think that a game that netted exactly zero dollars in gate receipts will solve the CWHL’s financial challenges overnight. But Bonhomme remains optimistic that the same fans who eagerly stood in line for pre-game and post-game autographs on Saturday were entertained enough to buy tickets for future games at MasterCard Centre and the other teams’ home rinks.
“We hope we won over a lot of the fans. We hope we showed them that our game has a lot to offer,” she said.
Rob Del Mundo is the author of Off The Post, and is a regular columnist at TMLfans.ca
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Five thousand fans fill lower bowl at ACC.
Toronto Furies captain Tessa Bonhomme
Team Canada gold medalists Rebecca Johnston (Toronto) and Meaghan Mikkelson (Alberta)
Johnston gets ready to fire the puck
Not the Leafs and Flames, but two teams played at ACC on a Saturday!