With the 2015 calendar year making the 25 anniversary of the inaugural IIHF Women’s World Ice Hockey Championships, the greatest legacy of the last quarter century has involved the empowering women who have helped create an unforgettable chapter in sporting history. Many of these women became more than just champions, but heroes who created sporting equality on a frozen surface, that would translate into becoming builders for the sport.
Among those builders was an incredibly gifted skater and playmaker with an ability to excel at multiple sports. Hailing from the great hockey community of Peterborough, Ontario, Hunter scored a Gretzky-like 874 goals in five seasons of play with Otonabee. Her legacy in the community (where she was inducted into the Peterborough Sports Hall of Fame in 2007) is one that has also seen the likes of other hockey stars leave a mark.
Including Montreal Canadiens captain Bob Gainey, Steve Larmer (who captured a Stanley Cup in 1994), Anaheim Ducks superstar Corey Perry, and Mike Fisher, the husband of country music superstar Carrie Underwood, they are among dozens of Peterborough-raised talents. In addition, NHL goaltender Greg Millen would coach the Midget AAA Peterborough Jr. Petes, which would also lead to a unique women’s hockey connection to Hunter.
Competing for Millen in the 2000-01 season was Nicole Gifford, which would be among one of the subjects of a hockey book titled, “Whose Puck is it Anyway?”, from Ed Arnold. Years later, Gifford would compete for the University of New Hampshire Wildcats, the same school where Hunter competed in the late 1980s and early 1990s, winning a pair of ECAC titles and garnering All-America honors.
Having contributed to a pair of IIHF Women’s World titles in 1992 and 1994 for Canada, Hunter not only played alongside the likes of superstars such as Angela James, France St. Louis, Geraldine Heaney and Stacy Wilson, she also had the chance to don the Maple Leaf with some of the future superstars in the game. Among them, were the likes of Cassie Campbell, Nancy Drolet and Hayley Wickenheiser.
It would be during 1994 that Hunter would plant the seeds for a project that still bears invaluable results today. As the year marked the introduction of the internet (known back then in pop culture lexicon as the information superhighway) to a mass scale of consumers, the necessity for women’s hockey information quickly became a mission and a labor of love for Hunter.
Working on a Masters Degree at the University of Toronto (where she was also recognized as a five-time OUA women’s hockey All-Star), Hunter was the ideal individual to launch the website whockey.com. An incredible source of information, complemented by a wealth of remarkable resources, it would lay the groundwork for other influential websites to follow.
By the dawn of the millennium, with internet access becoming much more common in business and households alike, Hunter’s website evolved into a gift for women’s hockey. In discussing the site as one of her legacies in the game, Hunter looks back on it with humbly,
”It really was not my intention, but it seems to have worked out that way. When I first created the Women’s Hockey Web back in 1994, my goal was to provide women’s hockey content on the Internet, as there was practically none!
I have to admit that a lot of people are more likely to remember me from my website than my hockey playing. Women’s hockey didn’t get nearly as much publicity as it does now. The 1992 World Championship in Tamperé, Finland wasn’t even broadcasted back here in Canada!
Although I do not have time to maintain the website now, I am planning to leave it there as an archive indefinitely. People have indicated that they are still finding it useful for women’s hockey info in the past.”
In 2002, a remarkable honor would come to embody the effort and dedication that Hunter gave to the game, on and off the ice. With the Esso Women’s Nationals hosted in the dual location of Arnprior and Renfrew, Ontario, it would serve as the backdrop to Hunter being awarded the prestigious Isabel Gathorne Hardy Award.
At the time, it was awarded annually at the Esso Women’s Nationals (the predecessor to the Clarkson Cup) and awarded to an active player at any level. Gathorne-Hardy, the daughter of Lord Stanley, was believed to have organized the first women’s hockey game in Canada. Her legacy with the award named in her honor helps to recognize the winner’s values, leadership and personal traits.
“I have to hand it to the OWHA and to Hockey Canada that they did an exceptional job of surprising me about this award! They invited me to attend the 2002 Nationals and asked me to be the guest speaker at the awards banquet.
I had given my speech after dinner and was listening as they outlined the credentials of the award winner, and then suddenly I realized it was me! It was a very crafty plan to get me there, and certainly a fabulous surprise and honour!”
As a side note, other winners have included Cathy Phillips (who played in the inaugural IIHF Women’s Worlds), along with CWHL co-founder Lisa-Marie Breton Lebreux and four-time Winter Games gold medalist Caroline Ouellette. Coincidentally, Breton Lebreux competed at the 2002 Esso Women’s Nationals and was named Most Sportsmanlike.
While Hunter is back on the ice after an absence of a dozen years, she has not lost a step. Competing in the Mimico Dad’s Hockey Organization, the first 18 games of the season has seen her log an astounding 78 points on the strength of 41 assists, displaying the talents that made her such a world-class competitor a generation ago. Having contributed to her club registering a league-best 13 wins, it comes as no surprise that she ranks first overall in the scoring race.
A keeper of the flame for women’s hockey, preserving the legacies of those who played during the game’s renaissance, Hunter is undoubtedly an icon. In addition to her current on-ice heroics, Hunter is also giving back to the community off it. As a proud mother of four, Hunter is providing a new generation of players with a remarkable knowledge and expertise, while teaching them the values of sportsmanship and fun.
“I am involved with coaching soccer and hockey for my kids. I was a coach for my son’s Tyke hockey team for the last 2 seasons, and I’m helping with my daughter’s Tyke team this season. It’s a fun and rewarding way to give back to the sport, while spending time with my kids!”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Image obtained from: https://twitter.com/hockeycanada/status/505112066013687808