This article was printed in the 1995-96 University of Toronto Women's Varsity Blues programme booklet. It provides a brief history of the team as well as a little bit of information about this season's squad.
One of Varsity's most successful teams during the past decade, the women's hockey Blues, have claimed 12 OWIAA titles in the last 15 years. After their 3-2 upset by the University of Guelph Gryphons in the finals last year, the Blues have their sights on "taking it back."
This winning tradition grew from a challenge to U of T issued more than 70 years ago from the McGill Women's Hockey Club. After prolonged discussions, Varsity invited McGill for a game on February 24, 1922 at the Mitual Street Arena.
This established the first competition for women's interuniversity hockey among McGill, Queen's and Toronto. This competition continued until the withdrawals of McGill in 1924-25 and Queen's in 1935-36, with only occasional games scheduled until 1951-52 when competition was disbanded until 1960.
Aside from interuniversity competition, the early Toronto team was active in city league. In 1922-23 and 1923-24, the University team played exhibition games with various Toronto city teams. In 1924-25, the team was entered in the Toronto Ladies Hockey League, winning the series and all play-off games in the Ladies' Ontario Hockey Association to capture the Ontario Championship. Regarded as one of the most skillful hockey teams that ever represented. This team is commemorated with a banner hanging in Varsity Arena. Following this time, there was some league and exhibition competitions until 1936.
It wasn't until the 1960s that a new era in women's university hockey developed. Varsity was one of the schools to participate when the former Women's Intercollegiate Athletic Union (WIAU) was revived in the fall of 1960. In 1971, the WIAU became the present OWIAA and women's hockey has a six team league with Varsity, Guelph, Queen's, York, and two expansion teams added in the 1994-95 season, Laurier and Windsor.
Outstanding individuals in women's inter-university ice hockey have been acknowledged for their contributions to the Toronto program, with induction into the University of Toronto Sports Hall of Fame. Launched in 1987, the Sports Hall of Fame is located in the foyer of the Warren Stevens Athletic Centre on Harbord Street, and it stands as a remembrance of past glories. Dr. Marion Hilliard was among the charter inductees in 1987. Mary Foster, who coached the Blues to three straight league titles starting in 1960, was inducted in 1994, and Gail Wilson, the Blues captain in 1966-67 and 1967-68, was inducted in 1993. The latest inductee into the Sports Hall of Fame is Karen Pitre, inducted in 1995. Karen played for the Blues from 1979-1983.
Varsity Blues, players and personnel have represented Canada at international competition. Former head coach Dave McMaster was the head coach for Team Canada at the first unofficial world invitational tournament in 1987. In 1990, McMaster guided Team Canada to the Gold Medal at the first IIHF-sanctioned women's world hockey championships help in Ottawa. McMaster retired form the Blues bench at the end of the 1992-93 sesaon after 20 years of coaching. McMaster's successor, Karen Hughes has continued this tradition. Hughes is among 5 coaches selected for the National Team Coaching Pool and will be an assistant coach for Team Canada at the 1996 Pacific Rim Tournament.
Varsity alumnae have been active players at the World Championships. Former Blues Heather Ginzel, and Vicky Sunohara competed in the 1990 World Championships. Nathalie Rivard and Heather Ginzel were Gold Medal winners at the 1992 World Championship in Tampere, Finland. Goaltender Lesley Reddon played on Team Canada which won the Gold Medal at the 1994 World Championship held at Lake Placid, New York. Across the border, Stephanie Boyd, captain of the 1992-93 Blues, was a member of Team USA, and goaltender Joan McDonnell (nee Weston) played on Team USA at the 1987 Invitational Tournament.
From the present Blues lineup, newcomer Laura Schuler was a member of Team Canada, winners of the Gold Medal at the 1990 World Championship. In 1992, Schuler was joined by Andria Hunter to win another Gold Medal at the World Championship. Hunter played on Canada's Gold Medal winning entry into the 1994 World Championship held in Lake Placid.
At present, Blues veteran Lori Dupuis, Laura Schuler, and former Blues Lesley Reddon, Nathalie Rivard, Vicky Sunohara, and Justine Blainey have all been selected to the Team Canada Players Pool. Dupuis, Schuler, and Reddon were members of the Gold Medalists at the Pacific Rim Tournament in California in April 1995. Dupuis and Schuler will represent Canada at the 1996 Pacific Rim Tournament, with the hopes of making the 1997 World Championship and the 1998 Winter Olympics teams.
If past success is any guide, look for a strong Varsity presence when women's hockey makes its debut at the 1998 Olympics.
For more information about the early days of the Varsity
women's athletics, please refer to:
"A Century to Remember 1893-1993, The Story of Women's Sports at the University of Toronto," by Helen Gurney.
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