February 8, 2006
She had no fear, even in boys' hockey
PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

Ryan Bonni couldn't believe his eyes.

He always knew Cindy Klassen could play boys' hockey. He'd been her teammate for a few years and knew she could skate with almost anyone.

But during this particular AAA bantam game, Bonni found out his 14-year-old defence partner on the Winnipeg Sharks could use her fists as well as her feet.

"She got into a fight," Bonni says, unable to stop himself from chuckling at the recollection. "I felt bad for the guy on the other team. I mean, it's embarrassing. Cindy stood right in there, just throwing punch after punch. And she was landing them.

"We gave it (the decision) to her, for sure."

Ask Klassen about the incident now, and she laughs, remembering it like it happened yesterday.

"This guy was punching me in the head, on the helmet," she says. "We were behind the net, and the play went to the other end. And I thought, 'I have to stick up for myself.' So then we just went at it."

Sitting in the stands, watching their daughter earn some respect, were mom and dad.

"She didn't lose very often," a grinning Helga adds. "She always handled herself pretty well."

COMPETITIVE FIRE

Klassen's competitive fire was matched by her skating ability and her smarts.

This was high-level hockey, remember.

Bonni, for instance, would go on to a pro career, playing extensively in the AHL -- even a few games for the NHL's Vancouver Canucks, who'd drafted him in the second round in 1997.

No, Klassen didn't have as hard a shot as the guys and wasn't as physical, but she knew where to be and could get there in a hurry.

"I was able to do things offensively because I knew Cindy was reliable," Bonni says.

Getting acceptance from her teammates wasn't a problem, either.

"The consensus was if she's good enough to make it, let her play," Bonni says. "She made it every year."

To this day, Klassen credits her experience in boys' hockey for at least part of her tireless work ethic.

"The coaches we had were amazing," she says. "I think I have a great work ethic because of them, because they just worked us into the ground. I learned a lot of discipline and dedication from them."







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