Vicky Sunohara (born May 18, 1970) is a three-time Olympian and is known as one of Canada's all-time most popular female ice hockey players. She was once considered to be the best female ice hockey player in the world and was described as the "Wayne Gretzky of women's hockey". She is currently the head coach of the University of Toronto women's hockey team.
Sunohara was born in Scarborough, Ontario. She is of Japanese-Ukrainian ethnicity. She is a graduate of the University of Toronto.
Sunohara gave birth to twin boys in 2009, following her retirement from international hockey in 2008.
Sunohara began to play hockey as a small child and the love of the game came naturally to her as her late father, David Sunohara, was a hockey enthusiast who played with the Ryerson Ramsin Toronto. Sunohara's late father built a backyard rink in the winters and introduced his daughter to skating at the age of two and a half. "My mother said that from the minute my father introduced me to hockey, I wouldn't do anything else," Sunohara commented. "I just loved it." She began playing organized hockey on a boys team at age 5, but was eventually banned from the boys' leagues due to her gender. She ended up dominating every level of girls' competition.
Sunohara attended Stephen Leacock Collegiate Institute in Scarborough, Ontario, where she was a standout on the women's ice hockey, field hockey, soccer, and flag football teams. Following high school, she received a full scholarship to Northeastern University in Boston, which is part of the NCAA Division 1 in ice hockey. While at Northeastern, she guided her team to win the ECAC Hockey championship, was awarded the ECAC Rookie of the Year, and was named to the NCAA All-American All-Star team. Sunohara also played hockey for the University of Toronto, where her team won the Ontario university championships in 1990-91 and 1991-92. She was named the Ontario university women's ice hockey Rookie of the Year in 1990-91.
Sunohara won an Olympic silver medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. She continued with an Olympic gold medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah,U.S.A., and another gold medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.
Besides the 1998, 2002 and 2006 Winter Olympics, Sunohara represented Canada in numerous international ice hockey competitions. She won 7 gold medals at the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championships, the first one coming in 1990. In total, she won 15 gold medals and 3 silver medals as a member of Canada's national team. Sunohara finished her career with Team Canada with 119 points (56 goals and 62 assists) in 164 games.
When she was not involved in international competition, Sunohara was the captain and assistant coach for the Brampton Canadettes Thunder, a team in an elite women's league, the Canadian Women's Hockey League (formerly the Brampton Thunder of the National Women's Hockey League). Sunohara has participated in several national championships. She was named the top forward in the 2005 national tournament and her team, the Brampton Thunder, won the national title in 2006.
Sunohara also played in the Central Ontario Women's Hockey League with the Scarborough Firefighters (1990 to 1994), Toronto Red Wings (1994 to 1996), and the Newtonbrook Panthers (1996 to 1997).
Sunohara is credited with helping to expand the popularity of female ice hockey, having trained and mentored many young girls in the sport. Along with instructing at several hockey camps and clinics, she served as an assistant hockey coach at the Team Canada Under 18 and Under 19 evaluation camps.
In 2011, Sunohara was named head coach of the University of Toronto Varsity Blues women's hockey team. "This is a dream job for me," said Sunohara. "I played here at U of T, I went to school here and graduated from the Faculty of Physical Education and Health and now I have a chance to give back to one of the most prolific women's hockey programs in North America. This is a great opportunity for me and I look forward to the task at hand – making the Varsity Blues a national contender."
Well known for her affable manner and engaging personality, Sunohara has been described as "one of the nicest people in all of hockey." During her tenure with Team Canada, Sunohara was counted on for her veteran leadership. She was the assistant captain of Canada's national team from 2001 until her retirement in 2008 at the age of 38.
A former Team Canada teammate, Sami Jo Small, was quoted as saying this about Sunohara:
I have had the privilege of playing with some pretty amazing people but none have struck me as born leaders like Vicky Sunohara...She rallies the troops in desperate times and tells funny jokes when the pressure is mounting...She's always there for her teammates and always willing to do whatever it takes to win. She makes those around her not only better hockey players but also better people...in the ten years I played on the team I never saw another player touch as many people in such a positive way as Vicky Sunohara.
In 2009, Toronto's former mayor, David Miller, remarked:
Not only is Vicky one of Canada's elite female athletes, she is a Torontonian and the granddaughter of immigrants representing the city's diversity which is one of our most important strengths. Vicky is well respected in our community and has worked tirelessly to help the youth of Toronto -- especially young girls -- develop their skills and fulfill their dreams.
Sunohara makes frequent appearances as a guest speaker and donates a considerable amount of time to charitable organizations. She served as Spokesperson for Youth Assisting Youth. In 2010, Sunohara was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Canadian Sport Centre Ontario, a non-profit organization committed to assisting high-performance athletes and coaches achieve excellence in international competition.
In 2002, Sunohara was inducted into the Brampton Sports Hall of Fame. In 2006, she was named an inaugural member of the Scarborough Walk of Fame.
At the age of 36, Sunohara was named Ontario's female athlete of the year for 2006.
Sunohara has been acknowledged by the Hockey Hall of Fame as one of the notable women ice hockey players of all time.
In 2009, Sunohara was selected by the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee to be Toronto's final torchbearer as Toronto welcomed the Vancouver-bound 2010 Olympic flame on its cross-country journey. She lit the cauldron before thousands of spectators at Nathan Phillips Square.