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"SUN" 2003 Obituary


SUNOHARA o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-03-12 published
A trailblazer in women's hockey
As a coach, he saw people first, athletes second and so took Canadian women's hockey to the pinnacle of the sport
By Ron CSILLAG Special to The Globe and Mail Wednesday, March 12, 2003 - Page R7
Toronto -- Think "hockey coach, " and you may be forgiven for conjuring images of a bug-eyed, borderline rage-oholic working a small wad of gum while berating his bench and screaming instructions to the ice.
That wasn't Dave McMASTER.
A fixture in Canadian women's hockey for 35 years, Mr. McMASTER was the polar opposite: A calm and calming influence who taught his players respect for their abilities and those of their opponents who saw people first and athletes second; who radiated a sheer love of the game; who hugged his players and meant it.
A trailblazer who boosted woman's hockey in this country before it was popular, or even seemly, Mr. McMASTER guided the Canadian women's team to a gold medal at the first women's world hockey championship in 1990 in Ottawa. Over one-million television viewers watched as Canada beat the U.S. 5-2 in the final. He also coached Team Canada at the first unofficial women's world tournament in 1987.
Through 22 seasons coaching the University of Toronto's Varsity (Lady) Blues, Mr. McMASTER won 12 Ontario university titles and compiled a record of 212-38-22.
"Everywhere there was hockey, Dave was there, said Fran RIDER, executive director of the Ontario Women's Hockey Association. "He was the lifeblood of women's hockey, very dedicated, not only to the game but to life skills. He cared about every player on every team. His enthusiasm and love of the game was catching."
At the time of his unexpected death of a heart attack this month in Toronto at the age of 62, he was still coaching three girls' teams, despite being officially retired as a schoolteacher and coach. One of them, the squad at Bishop Strachan School, had to leave for a tournament in Newfoundland just days after Mr. McMASTER died. Their coach's influence obviously sunk in: Despite being distraught at the news of his death, which sent shock waves through the world of women's hockey, the team won all seven of its games. That was after Bishop Strachan captured the Foster Hewitt Memorial Cup for the fifth consecutive year at the Air Canada Centre just three weeks before Mr. McMASTER's death.
"He gave players a sense of responsibility for their actions. He taught us to respect ourselves and others, but most important, he let us have fun, recalled Team Canada head coach Karen HUGHES, who also took over from Mr. McMASTER as coach at U of T, where she had played for him. "With Dave, it wasn't about winning and losing, but a love of the game and sharing and Friends. He encouraged players to go beyond their limits."
Some 800 Friends, loved ones and jersey-clad players crowded Grace Church-on-the-Hill in Toronto on Valentine's Day to celebrate a life that touched so many others.
David Carson McMASTER was born in Toronto to a homemaker and a lawyer who wanted a legal career for his son. At St. Andrew's College, the young Mr. McMASTER played football, cricket and hockey, and later, at Dalhousie University, "he was a born goaltender, remembered his lifelong best friend, Douglas ROWAN. " Mix, as he came to be called (as in Mixmaster), was not known as a particularly graceful player, as his many stitches and at least seven broken noses attested. He was an early proponent of face masks for goalies and after donning one, he ducked out of the way of a puck, only to be hit in the head. More stitches followed.
It was at Dalhousie that he coached his first women's team, in 1965. "He acquired a girlfriend he could yell at on the ice, Mr. ROWAN quipped. "It didn't last." But the coaching bug did.
Armed with a history degree, Mr. McMASTER returned to Toronto to study law. That lasted less than a year, and he graduated from the University of Toronto's teachers' college instead. He joined the small staff of Toronto's Royal St. George's College in 1969 and spent nearly 30 years teaching geography, history and guidance.
Mr. McMASTER began coaching the women's hockey team at University of Toronto while still a student there. In 22 seasons (1967-69 and 1975-93), he won an enviable 82 per cent of games. There, as with Team Canada, he would don his trademark track suit and black bike helmet to preside over practices, with cries of "Regroup!" "Shoot your passes!" and "Two laps." Coughing up the puck in the neutral zone was "a never."
In 1972, he married Norma McCLURE, who'd been his waitress at the Muskoka Golf and Country Club. The couple had a son, Scott, and a daughter, Anne, before divorcing in 1991. Mr. McMASTER never remarried.
He was a focused, demanding coach, but not obsessive, said his daughter. "I don't even have any idea how to skate. But Dad never pushed me. That was testament to his patience and love. He never raised his voice." At Toronto Maple Leaf games, "he was always coaching. He would cheer a good play by the other team."
He displayed his gold medal, said Anne, but not as prominently as a letter from a young girl saying Mr. McMASTER had changed her perspective on life.
He wasn't without a mischievous sense of humour. Vicki SUNOHARA, who played for Mr. McMASTER for two years, recalled how Team Canada once thrashed Japan 13-0. Ms. SUNOHARA, who is of Japanese extraction, scored several goals and was named player of the game. She recalled how Mr. McMASTER told her after the game, in mock horror, "These Japanese girls love you and look up to you. How could you do this to them?"
Mr. McMASTER went on to Bishop Strachan School in 1998 to coach hockey and teach geography and history. He was inducted into the University of Toronto's Sports Hall of Fame in 2000. He retired in 2001, but couldn't stop a simple desire to expose young people to Canada's game.
Asked whether it was the passion, cleaner play or some other mysterious quality that drew Mr. McMASTER to women's hockey as opposed to men's, his daughter smiled. "He used to say girls asked a lot more questions. I think he liked that."

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