Legends of Hockey - Spotlight - Team Canada Women's World Championship - 1990
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One on One Turning Point

Team Canada Women's World Championship - 1990

5 MARCH 2015
Canada's Laura Schuler with a scoring chance against USA's Kelly Dyer during gold medal game action at the 1990 IIHF Women's World Championship in Ottawa, ON. (Ottawa Citizen/Hockey Hall of Fame)
The 1990 IIHF World Women's Championship drew the attention of the hockey world and the curiosity of others because it was the first women's world championship sanctioned by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). And because of that, it has taken on historic perspective as we have watched the women's game develop and explode through the years since.

Canada's Angela James battling with USA's Yvonne Percy during gold medal game action at the 1990 IIHF Women's World Championship in Ottawa, ON. (Ottawa Citizen/Hockey Hall of Fame)
The women's hockey game has had to be nurtured and nourished through the decades since Isobel Stanley, teenaged daughter of Lord Stanley, Canada's Governor General from 1888 to 1893, took to the ice with skates, sticks and moxy, joined by a number of other women from Parliament Hill in Ottawa. It was not without great trials and tribulations that the first national championship for women was held in 1982. Five years later, the Ontario Women's Hockey Association (OWHA) organized a six-country tournament. "Up until now, there has been no elite international competition for women playing hockey," stated Fran Rider, the lead organizer for the tournament.

Canada's Vickie Sunohara, Susana Yuen and Laura Schuller celebrating after a goal against the U.S. during gold medal game action at the 1990 IIHF Women's World Championship in Ottawa, ON. (Ottawa Citizen/Hockey Hall of Fame)
The IIHF sanctioned a women's world championship to be played in March 1990 in Ottawa. There were two groups of four countries participating in the tournament. Group A featured Canada, Japan (who represented Asia when China declined the invitation), Sweden and West Germany. Group B included Finland, Norway, Switzerland and the United States.

Tracksuit worn by Team Canada defender Geraldine Heaney throughout the inaugural 1990 IIHF Women's World Championship held in Ottawa, ON. (Hockey Hall of Fame)
Organizers were ecstatic that The Sports Network (TSN) agreed to broadcast four games nationally, increasing the exposure exponentially. It was a measured step into introducing women's hockey globally through the Olympic Winter Games, which finally happened in 1998, in part on the shoulders of the 1990 World Women's Championships.

The Canadian team sported pink jerseys with a stylized maple leaf, white pants and pink socks, much to the dismay of team members. "We can't forget about the pink uniforms and white pants, but we didn't care what we were wearing; we were making history," recalled Geraldine Heaney. Vicky Sunohara agreed: "To represent Canada and have that jersey on was a dream come true. I didn't care that we wore pink. All that mattered was that we were playing for Canada!"

Canada and the United States both waltzed through their respective groups, going undefeated. Team USA outscored its opponents 38 to 7 through three games, beating Switzerland 16-3, Norway 17-0 and Finland 5-4. But Canada scored 50 goals, allowing just one through their three-game series. The Canadians beat Sweden 15-1, West Germany 17-0 and Japan 18-0.

The Canadian bench celebrating after 5-2 gold medal game win over the U.S. at the 1990 IIHF Women's World Championship in Ottawa, ON. (Ottawa Citizen/Hockey Hall of Fame)
The two teams without a loss were given byes to the semi-finals, at which the United States swamped Sweden 10-3 and Canada edged Finland 6-5. The final would set the stage for the contest everyone expected: Canada versus the United States.

More than 9,000 were shoehorned into Ottawa's Civic Centre on March 25, 1990 for the gold medal game. TSN later reported that more than one million Canadians watched the championship game between the two women's hockey superpowers of the era.

Canada's Geraldine Heaney celebrating with teammates after scoring the eventual gold medal game-winning goal against the U.S at the 1990 IIHF Women's World Championship in Ottawa, ON. (Ottawa Citizen/Hockey Hall of Fame)
"The final game was unbelievable," remembered Vicky Sunohara. "I think it was the largest crowd to have ever watched a women's hockey game. The crowd was awesome -- so many people in pink cheering for Canada!"

The game was tighter than any Canada had played to that point. Canada took the gold 5-3, with defenceman Geraldine Heaney scoring a sensational goal, leading a solo rush and then deking past two defenders and then firing a shot past the American goalkeeper as she flew through the air. "The 1990 Worlds was something I will never forget," said Heaney. "Getting a chance to represent Canada in hockey for the first time was a huge step forward for women's hockey. Personally, scoring the winning goal, which is also known as the 'Bobby Orr goal,' is something I never get tired of seeing. I can still visualize the goal in my head as it was yesterday!" That highlight reel goal was regularly included in the best goals of the hockey season, by either sex, and that summer, Geraldine was invited to present the Norris Trophy to Raymond Bourque as the NHL's top defenceman of 1989-90.

Angela James led the Canadians in scoring with 11 goals and 2 assists. The overall points leader was Cindy Curley of Team USA, who scored 11 times and added 12 helpers for 23 points. Canadian netminder Cathy Phillips bested all tournament goaltenders by allowing just three goals on the 32 shots she faced for a 1.15 goals-against average.

The landmark IIHF World Women's Hockey Championship of 1990 truly opened the door to far wider interest in women's hockey, and by 1998, the sport was added to the Olympic Winter Games for the first time. Today, women's hockey is the fastest growing segment of this truly great sport.

Canada's Susana Yuen celebrating after Canada's 5-2 gold medal game win over the U.S. at the 1990 IIHF Women's World Championship in Ottawa, ON. (Ottawa Citizen/Hockey Hall of Fame) Canada's France St. Louis celebrating with teammates after Canada 5-2 gold medal game win over the U.S. at the 1990 IIHF Women's World Championship in Ottawa, ON. (Ottawa Citizen/Hockey Hall of Fame) Canada's Sue Scherer hoisting the World Championship plate after Canada's 5-2 gold medal game win over the U.S. at the 1990 IIHF Women's World Championship in Ottawa, ON. (Ottawa Citizen/Hockey Hall of Fame)

Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and Online Features for the Hockey Hall of Fame.