Monday, December 28, 2009

Vicky Sunohara

Vicky Sunohara was one of the most decorated Canadian female players of all time.

Sunohara joined the Canada's National Women's Team in 1989-90. She would partake in three Olympic Winter Games (1998, 2002, 2006), winning two golds and one silver; seven IIHF World Women's Championships (1990-1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005); seven Four Nations Cups (1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004) and the Torino Ice Tournament (2005). In all that time she won 18 medals, 15 of them gold. From 2000 through to her retirement in 2008 the personable Sunohara was the team's associate captain.

As women's hockey caught on in popularity in the late 1990s and 2000s, Sunohara was a grand ol' dame of the game. Her prime came back in the early 1990s when women's hockey was just gaining acceptance at the international level.

Her coach, Don MacLeod at Northeastern University, called her the best female player in the game and called her the Wayne Gretzky of women's hockey. She cemented her status as the best in the game at the first ever world championships in 1990, scoring 6 goals and 9 points in 5 games to give Canada the gold.

Her highlight of her career was, like so many of the ladies, the Nagano Olympics in 1998. Those were the first Olympics to include women's hockey as a medal sport. Canada would disappointingly drop the gold medal game to the USA, but Sunohara made special memories nobody else on the team could experience.

Sunohara's grandfather had descended from the ancient mountain city of Ueda-shi, and she was treated like it was a great homecoming, even though she had never been to the country before.

Sunohara, who is of mixed Japanese and Ukrainian descent, was encouraged to play hockey by her father, Dave, a first generation Japanese Canadian learning to play on the backyard rink he built every year. He died when Vicky was just 7 years old, but her mother carried on, insisting on educating Vicky of her Japanese heritage, and of course keepg up with the hockey routine.

Of course routine itself was far from routine for girls playing hockey back then. She found it harder and harder to play as the boys teams would not allow her to play with them. The girls teams tended to be of too little competition for an advanced skater like her.

She persevered, eventually becoming one of the greatest female players in the game's history (and a very good soccer playerand bowler, too). Along the way she earned a degree in physical education, starting at the University of Toronto but completing her studies at Northeastern University in Boston, where she had a full scholarship.

Sunohara is one of the nicest people in all of hockey, constantly donating her time to charitable events and helping the next generation of hockey playing girls.

Sami-Jo Small perhaps said it best about her Olympic teammate:

"I have had the privilege of playing with some pretty amazing people but none have struck me as born leaders like Vicky Sunohara...She rallies the troops in desperate times and tells funny jokes when the pressure is mounting...She's always there for her teammates and always willing to do whatever it takes to win. She makes those around her not only better hockey players but also better the ten years I played on the team I never saw another player touch as many people in such a positive way as Vicky Sunohara."


richard lennie said...

My favorite female hockey player of all time. Wish she was still on team Canada today.

richard lennie said...


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