Students assembled en masse in the gymnasium at Bishop Tonnos Catholic Secondary on Monday (Feb. 10) to celebrate the athletic excellence of one of their school’s recent graduates.
They came together on Red and White Day to cheer for defenceman Laura Fortino, a former member of the Bishop Tonnos Titans girls’ hockey team who is currently a rookie with the Canadian Olympic women’s hockey entry in Sochi, Russia.
“For-ti-no! .. For-ti-no! .. they chanted at one point.
With Bishop Anthony Tonnos, a retired bishop of the diocese of Hamilton, seated in the front row, the gathering watched a large-screen live telecast of Team Canada’s 3-0 victory over Finland. That win was the second in as many starts for Canada, which is vying for its fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal in the sport.
The walls in the gym at Tonnos were filled with home-made posters, streamers, balloons and Canadian flags to show support for Fortino along with this country’s other Olympic athletes.
Fortino, 22, even took the time to send a special videotape message back to everyone at her old school. She told them how much she enjoyed the experience of playing high school hockey for two years with the Titans. Incidentally, she also participated in field hockey and soccer and was twice named Tonnos’s Female Athlete of the Year.
“I’m so thrilled and honoured to know that I have the support of the BT community on my Olympic journey,” Fortino said. “I can’t thank you all enough for everything that you have done for me both as a player and a person. I’m aware all of you have gathered today to watch my game against Finland. I’m so excited to know you are cheering loud for Canada as we continue on this journey to bring back gold.”
The media presentation also included pictures of Fortino as a young child. There were shots, too, of the former boys’ rep hockey player moving up to crack the national team roster then star in the NCAA for Cornell University.
Laura’s brother, Raymond, was in attendance wearing the Fortino jersey with the No. 8. Also on hand were her cousins Adrianne and Stefanie DiSimoni. Representing the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board at the event were Director of Education Patricia Amos and Superintendent of Education, Mary Cipolla. Speakers from the host school included principal Frank Ciancone, veteran girls and boys hockey coach Dino Cavarzan plus physical education leaders, Helen Downey, and Steve Maga.
“We are proud of Laura,” said Tonnos’s co-instructional head, Maga. “She is truly an inspiration … an example of what dedication and perseverance is all about.
“Bishop Tonnos, the Bishop who this school is named after, spoke to all of us 10 years ago in his opening address to this school community. He said, “I don’t ask for much from you, I just ask for excellence.’ That is what he said to us. Excellence of the mind, the body and the soul. Today we once again exude and display that excellence that Bishop Tonnos so loves to see and we strive for. It is a day, a week and hopefully a year which we can all take great pride.”
Canada had some anxious moments before it scored three unanswered goals in the third period (by Meghan Agosta-Marciano, Jayna Hefford and Rebecca Johnston) to blank Finland. It was the second consecutive shutout victory for Canada (5-0 over Switzerland in the opener).
The Canadian Olympic team’s next game is Wednesday (Feb. 12) against its fiercest rivals, the United States.
The Tonnos girls’ hockey team went into this week first in the HWCAA standings with a record of 5-2-2. They are also looking for a gold medal – but at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations level.