BONNYVILLE – It is a game that will likely remain on the minds of Bonnyville Jr. A Pontiacs fans and supporters of Pontiacs’ alumni Justin Fontaine for a very long time.
On Jan. 21, the Bonnyville Jr. A organization lifted a banner with Fontaine’s number 14 jersey to the rafters of the RJ Lalonde Arena. The jersey retirement ceremony featured speeches, video highlights from Fontaine’s hockey career, and of course words from the honoree himself.
The Bonnyville native came up through the ranks, starting in Bonnyville Minor Hockey, he was then selected to play for the local Jr. A team, eventually moving south to play NCAA hockey at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
In 2011, Fontaine was signed by the Minnesota Wild, scoring his first NHL goal against the Dallas Stars in 2013.
Speaking before a large crowd in his hometown, Fontaine shared memories but most of all expressed gratitude to those who helped him on his hockey journey.
“It’s a great honour to have my number retired in the rink I grew up in. I was fortunate in my career to have played with Mark Letestu, Jon Kalinski and Matt Cook and I’m proud to be joining them in the rafters tonight,” said Fontaine.
He went on to thank his peers and coaches, but one topped the list - his minor hockey coach Grant Ferbey.
“Hockey was life for me. I’m pretty sure my parents had a stick in my hand before I could even walk so, I'm not sure if I had a choice or not to have a deep passion for the game of hockey,” he continued.
“I grew up a rink rat and was always here at the RJ. I attended a lot of Pontiacs games as a kid and can remember watching their practices before the noon hour hockey started. Some days I would get lucky, and players would stay out and shoot around with me. This is when it all clicked for me. My drive and determination had reached a new level and I can remember telling myself, one day I will play for my hometown team – the Bonnyville Pontiacs.
After years of hard work and dedication, Fontaine was given the opportunity to suit up with the Jr. A team in 2004.
“These are memories I will cherish for the rest of my life because Bonnyville is where it all started for me.”
Fontaine gave special thanks to his wife Missy, his extended family and to his mom and dad.
“Dad, as much as I’d like to chirp you in front of all these people, I can't. You were the best coach I ever had. You taught me so much about the game, how to compete, how to use my skills, how to play the right way... So tonight, when that jersey goes up, it's not just for me, it represents all of us,” he said.
As the number 14 banner was lifted, hundreds of spectators stood and applauded.
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Pontiacs crush the competition
Following the jersey retirement ceremony, the Jr. A Pontiacs made the decision that the game against the top team in the AJHL North Division, the Sherwood Park Saints, was theirs to win.
In the first period alone, the home team put up four unanswered goals. The Pontiacs’ team captain Trey Funk was involved with all four points, assisting in the first goal and then earning a hat trick.
The Saints would find their first opportunity to score during a power play in the second period, and another just seven minutes later. The Pontiacs would answer both goals, remaining four points ahead.
Things were not looking up for the Saints, as the Pontiacs managed to shut them out in the third period while still finding a way to earn two more goals before the final buzzer. The game ended with an 8-2 victory for the Pontiacs.
Funk finished the game with three goals, JR Ashmead found the back of the net twice, as did Max Seguin. Noah Heinrich earned the Pontiacs’ final goal of the night.
The Bonnyville Pontiacs remain in third place in the North Division and seventh overall in the AJHL.
Feb. 3 will be the Pontiacs’ next home game. The puck drops against the Lloydminster Bobcats at 7 p.m.