This article was printed in the 1997-98 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 two decades, the women's Hockey Blues have claimed 13 Ontario league titles in the last 16 years, most recently in 1995-96. In total, the Blues have won 34 league championships, by far the best record in Canadian university women's hockey.
This winning tradition grew from a challenge to UofT issued more than 75 years ago from the McGill Women's Hockey Club, suggesting that a game be played "at a mutually convenient time." The letter arrived on October 12, 1921, and led to several meetings to discuss concerns such as financial implications of an inter-provincial game. Eventually the problems were resolved and Varsity invited McGill for a game on February 24, 1922 at the former Mutual 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, and except for three years of league operation from 1948-49 through 1950-51, only occasional games were scheduled until competition was disbanded in the spring of 1951 for the remainder of the decade.
Aside from interuniversity competition, the early Toronto teams were active in city leagues. In 1922-23 and '23-24 the University team played exhibition games with various Toronto city teams. In 1924-25 the Blues entered 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 skilful hockey teams that ever represented the University of Toronto, this team is commemorated with a banner hanging in Varsity Arena. In subsequent years, there was some league and exhibition competition until 1936, when the team was disbanded. The intercollegiate league was revived in 1948 for a three-year period which saw Varsity win all three championships.
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 Ontario Women's Interuniversity Athletics Association (OWIAA) and after 26 years of steady growth, the OWIAA merged with the men's association to form the new Ontario University Athletics (OUA) league in the summer of 1997. Today, OUA women's ice hockey has a strong six-team league with Varsity, Guelph, Queen's, York and two 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, regarded as the top player on the legendary provincial 1924-25 provincial championship team, was among the charter inductees in 1987, and Blues annual invitational tournament is named in her honour. 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. Karen Wright Pitre, captain of Blues 1983-84 championship team, was inducted in 1995 and Gill Fisher, a key member of three league champions between 1960-63, joined the Hall of Fame in 1996. The most recent inductee, in June 1997, is Adele Statten Ebbs, who played on four consecutive intercollegiate championship teams from 1927-28 through 1930-31 and was Blues captain in 1929-30.
Varsity Blues coaching personnel played an important role when women's hockey expanded to the international scene in the past decade. 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 held in Ottawa. He retired from the Blues bench at the end of the 1992-93 season after 20 years of coaching at UofT. McMaster's successor, Karen Hughes has continued this tradition. Selected for the National Team Coaching Pool in 1995, she was an assistant coach with Team Canada at the 1996 Pacific Rim Tournament and is currently a regional evaluator.
Varsity players also have been active participants at the World Championship Tournaments. Former Blues Heather Ginzel and Vicky Sunohara competed in the 1990 World Championships. Natalie Rivard was a member of the 1992 Gold Medallists. Andria Hunter, a league All-Star in each of her five seasons with the Blues, was a member of Canada's winning teams at the 1992 and 1994 world tournaments. Goaltender Lesley Reddon played on Team Canada which won the Gold Medal at the 1994 World Championship Tournament held at Lake Placid, New York and was the netminder for the title game at the 1997 World Tournament it Kitchener.
Across the border, Stephanie Boyd, captain of the 1992-93 Blues, was a member of Team USA in 1994, and former Varsity goaltender Joan Weston played on Team USA at the 1987 Invitational Tournament.
Sunohara and Reddon, plus three forwards on 1996-97 Varsity roster--Lori Dupuis, Laura Schuler and Jayna Hefford--helped Canada win Gold at the 1997 World Championship tournament in Kitchener and are on the national team squad preparing for the Winter Olympics. Dupuis, Blues captain from 1995-97, played for Team Canada at the 1996 Pacific Rim Tournament and was involved in the overtime goal that gave Canada the 1997 World title. Schuler, also a member of the 1990 and 1992 World Championship teams, won Gold along with Dupuis at the 1995 and 1996 Pacific Rim tournaments and the 1996 Three Nations Cup. Hefford, Blues top rookie last season as well as a league All-Star and leading scorer, was the 5th Varsity player to earn a spot on Canada's Olympic team.
All five are among the Silver Medallists at Nagano, and the OUA alumnae contingent also includes Team Canada assistant captain Cassie Campbell, a former league All-Star defense player at Guelph. The Varsity Olympic contingent also included referee Laurie Taylor-Bolton, captain of Blues 1992-93 championship team, who was selected to officiate the Bronze Medal match between Finland and China.
1921-22 1922-23 1923-24 1924-25 1926-27 1927-28 1928-29 1929-30 1931-32 1932-33 1933-34 1948-49 1949-50 1950-51 1960-61 1961-62 1962-63 1963-64 1964-65 1965-66 1979-80 1980-81 1981-82 1983-84 1984-85 1985-86 1987-88 1988-89 1989-90 1990-91 1991-92 1992-93 1993-94 1995-96
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