by Ciaran Thompson
There are shots, saves, rebounds, goals, penalties and, surprising to some, lots of body contact, yet women’s hockey is still not as popular as men’s hockey.
Vicky Sunohara, a three-time Olympic medal winner for Canada in women’s hockey, believes the popularity for the sport is increasing and will someday get the recognition it deserves.
“It’s come a long way and it’s come a long way since women’s hockey has been in the Olympics so I can only hope that it keeps going and keep progressing,” Sunohara told students at Centennial College’s journalism program March 6.
Having won 18 medals in total as a member of the women’s national team, Sunohara thinks women’s hockey can advance while maintaining the integrity of the game.
“We want to keep it a finesse game and we want to keep it fast,” she said.
Body checking is not allowed and is one of the main differences between men and women’s hockey. Although in some games, when tensions run high, there is some body contact between players.
“I think there is a lot of physical contact, not just all out body checking,” she said.
“There are a lot of players that would like to have body checking and there is a lot of players and fans that think there is no place for it in our game.”
Whether for or against body checking, many sides agree that the sport needs to create more awareness for it to grow. The amount of publicity for women’s hockey usually stems from the Olympics while they are in session.
“In women’s hockey we feel any publicity is good publicity,” she said. “A lot of people watch the Olympics, but besides that there is not a whole lot of awareness out there for our sport.”
Some female players however, have attracted the attention of the National Hockey League. Just last year two-time Olympic gold medalist Kim St-Pierre tended goal at a Montreal Canadiens practice.
Sunohara knows all about playing with the boys as she played with and against them as a kid.
“Growing up till high school I don’t think I had a friend that was a girl, it was all ‘cause I was playing sports with all the guys,” she said.
But Sunohara thinks that as they get older, it’s better for girls to play in their own leagues.
“I think at a certain age that physiological differences just come in to play and its tough.”
Sunohara went to hockey schools for boys when she was younger, but now runs her own, strictly for girls. Vicky Sunohara’s Summer Hockey Camp is now in its 10th year.
Sunohara is also a player/coach with the Brampton Thunder of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. In this past season, she has found herself on the bench coaching as well as taking an advanced role in creating a name for women’s hockey.
“Now that I’m not playing I’m going to try to get on the side of doing more to promote it professionally,” she said
“Its getting better, but it has a long way to go.”