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Strathoy defenceman’s comeback season ends in overtime

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Mike Bondy’s comeback season ended Saturday with a 5-4 semifinal overtime loss to the Tillsonburg Thunder.

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The 49-year-old Strathroy Jets defenceman held his own on the blueline throughout the inaugural WOSHL hockey season playing against men half his age.

“I turn 50 in two months,” Bondy smiled.

He finished with six points in 17 regular season games after coming off of a 16-year retirement. He had last played competitive OHA senior hockey (Major League Hockey) with Aylmer in 2004-05 after two all-star seasons in Petrolia, and five seasons professional hockey in the Contintenal/United Hockey League, including a 14-game IHL stint with the Detroit Vipers (teammates included NHLers Kevin Weekes and Craig Wolanin).

“After that I’ve just been playing rec hockey,” said Bondy.

What brought him back?

“These guys, the young guys in that room. I coached probably 75 to 85 per cent of them at some point in minor hockey or junior. When they first started our (Strathroy Jets) team, they asked me to get involved. They said, ‘You’ve got to play, you can do it, you know you can.’ I said, ‘Guys, I know I can do it but you guys are half my age.’

“It’s these young guys that keep me going, it’s been a lot of fun. The season was good, it was competitive. Obviously, with the pandemic situation, I think it hurt the league, especially having the break. That six weeks or so when everybody was off, I think that was hard on a lot of teams. I think it was definitely hard on our team because you get into a groove…

“They were competitive games, you had to be sharp every game. It’s not easy, especially the back-to-backs. But I still enjoy it.”

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Strathroy came from behind Saturday night to take a 4-3 third-period lead at the Kinsmen Memorial Arena, but Tillsonburg equalized late in regulation and won it 1:02 into overtime, taking the best-of-seven 4-0.

“You need the bounces to go your way and unfortunately they didn’t go our way,” said Bondy. “But for the first year of our organization, it’s something for us to build on. I’d say 80% of these guys are right from Strathroy. When everyone involved got it going, that was one thing we wanted to stay committed to – try to keep it as local as we can. It makes a difference. We always get decent crowds for our Friday night home games. It’s good hockey to watch and people like watching it.”

As much as he enjoyed the WOSHL season, Bondy is not sure if he’ll be back on the ice next year.
“We’ll see… I did it to prove to myself that I could still do it but I wanted to do it before I turned 50. We’ll see how things develop. I’ll still be involved with the team, I’ll help out where I can. It’s a great group and I hope we can keep everybody together.”

cabbott@postmedia.com

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