CWHL hopeful 1 step closer to Olympic dream

Burlington Barracudas's draftee Melissa Boufounos starts her training camp on Sept. 23 (Melissa7_crop)

She wanted to play professional women’s hockey and has been working towards her dream for years.

It became a reality on Aug. 22 when Bolton’s Melissa Boufounos was drafted 52nd overall in the ninth round by the Burlington Barracudas of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL).

The moment was an unforgettable one for the 22-year-old.

“It felt absolutely amazing. My hands were shaking as I started sending text messages to my boyfriend and close friends,” said Boufounos, in an interview with the Toronto Observer. “Getting drafted put me one step closer to realizing my dream of playing in the Olympics one day.”

Going to school, working a full-time day job, coaching a high school girl’s hockey team, playing in a men’s league, and training on and off the ice has been Boufounos’s life for the past 11 years, but she wouldn’t change anything.

“I love hockey for a lot of reasons. Some of the best friends I have, I met them through hockey, and you have a whole other family in your team,” said Boufounos, who graduated from Centennial College with a post-graduate diploma in Sports Journalism.

“Also, I’m good at it. I’m kind of a perfectionist and being good at the sport makes me love it that much more. I’m just obsessed with it. I eat, sleep and breathe hockey.”

Boufounos is counting down the days until Sept. 23 where 25 women – 13 draftees and 12 returning players will gather for the Barracudas’s training camp.

“I’m definitely excited for my rookie season. I look forward to playing against Montreal. Even though they are stacked with Olympic athletes, it’s going to be so neat sharing the ice with Olympic gold medalists,” said Boufonos, who was a member of her high school hockey team, the Humberview Huskies, for four years.

Coach Ray Baumgaertner needs 21 players for the 2011-12 roster, however those who are released after the camp on Sept. 30 will have the opportunity to practice with the team throughout the season.

Boufounos is ready whether she makes the final roster or not.

If she is released, she will continue to play in the Golden Blades Hockey League for a Senior AA team, and attend practices with the Barracudas to sharpen her skills.

Like her role model Martin St. Louis, of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boufounos will stop at nothing to achieve her goals.

“He’s a small hockey player and people in the NHL didn’t look twice at him in his early days. Calgary gave him a chance, and now everyone is kicking themselve sfor passing up on the little guy,” she said.

“I’m small too, and when I played college men’s hockey or in men’s leagues, the other players would tower over me and chuckle until I took the puck off them and scored.”

With diploma in broadcast journalism in her pocket from Seneca College, and the grad work at Centennial, Boufounos doesn’t know yet where her career is headed.

“I love sports and the media too. I think I would like to work for a hockey team or a league, and either do some type of public relations or communications position if I don’t pursue broadcasting,” she said.

For now, her focus is on hockey.

Once the season starts, Boufounos will be skating four times a week, working out two or three times and working, but even with this hectic schedule she finds time to read, write her blog and plan her wedding.