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Photo of the Varsity women's hockey team playing a match on an outdoor rink (winter 1910)
From left: Unknown official, Evelyn McDonald (BA 1910, MA 1911), Minnie Barry (BA 1911), Annie Hunter (BA 1913), Olive Bonnar (BA 1910) and Anne Sutherland (BA 1910). Photo: University of Toronto Archives

Ice Queens

Hockey was one of U of T’s first women’s sports

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).

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  1. 2 Responses to “ Ice Queens ”

  2. Ross O'Donnell says:

    Thank you for recalling U of T's hockey history, and pioneering women's hockey.

  3. Patricia Campbell Warner says:

    Thanks for the great picture of the women hockey players. Can you imagine playing hockey in those long and full skirts? In my study on American women's entry into sports and the clothing they wore for it, (Warner, Patricia Campbell, When the Girls Came Out to Play, University of Massachusetts Press, 2006) U of T was the only school I came across (granted, the only Canadian school I looked at) that had hockey in any form, even as a club. Way to go, Toronto!