A century ago, U of T, like most of Canada, was hockey crazy. Because ice time on outdoor rinks was at a premium in the short six- to eight-week season, Varsity Arena’s three hockey rinks were booked from four to 10 p.m. The women’s teams – University College, Victoria and St. Hilda’s (part of Trinity) – who had begun interleague play in 1901, competed in a six-game round robin in January and February 1910, with as many as 2,000 “rooters” (fans) cheering them on. Skates cost as much as or more than a week’s rent, anywhere from $1.25 to $5, with boots an extra $2 to $4. But the players could pick up a hockey stick for 25 to 75 cents.
The Varsity reported enthusiastically on the matches, commending captain Anne Sutherland’s goalkeeping and Annie Hunter’s scoring. (Hunter played rover, a seventh position popular in the early days of hockey that could play either offence or defence.) But not all rules were imported wholesale from the men’s game. Body checking, for example, was banned in 1910 and remained taboo for more than half a century afterward.
The pictured team won the U of T championship – undefeated – in 1910. The women’s intercollegiate competition was launched a decade later, with U of T shutting out McGill 4–0 in 1922. Today, Varsity Blues women’s hockey has won 17 Ontario University Athletics championships, and coaches include Olympic medallists Vicky Sunohara (BPHE 2010) and Jayna Hefford (BPHE 2004).