UBC Thunderbirds Kirsten Toth talks playoffs and Women’s Hockey misconceptions

Posted: February 15, 2016 in Women's Hockey
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UBC Thunderbirds defender Kirsten Toth.

UBC Thunderbirds defender and Sociology Major Kirsten Toth.

VANCOUVER, B.C – The UBC Thunderbirds Women’s Hockey Team are resting up and preparing for what could potentially be a long and gruelling playoff run. Coach Graham Thomas saw his team split a pair of matches against the Manitoba Bisons on the final week of the season. UBC chances of earning a playoff bye came to fruition thanks to a Regina Cougars loss on Sunday night. UBC claims the second seed in the CWUAA and will wait to see who survives the quarter-final series from February 19-21. The Thunderbirds would then host a Canada West semifinal series the following weekend from February 26-28.

UBC Thunderbirds defenseman Kirsten Toth has made quite a name for herself in her first season with UBC. The Langley, B.C. native known for her physical style of play has helped shore up defensive zone stability heading into the playoffs. Toth scored her 1st goal of the season against Manitoba in a 4-2 UBC victory. The five-foot and eleven inch defender is coming into her own after missing the first half of the season due to red shirt eligibility rules.

While sitting on the sidelines Toth was the brains behind the famous ‘Stupid Questions Female Hockey Players Get Asked’ video. Toth was available for an interview and discussed the famous video, how the team is preparing for the playoffs, and just what exactly is her pre-game meal routine before a big game.

How would you characterize the season?

Personally this season has been short so far for me because I just started playing in January, I had to red shirt for the first half. I think it’s been a pretty consistent season overall for the team. This conference, Canada West is pretty tight. You can’t guarantee a sweep ever, no matter who you’re playing against. The girls have managed to win most of their games thus far. I think it’s been pretty consistent overall.

You’ve only played in a dozen games this year how did you manage to stay a part of the team?

I was skating with the team every single day and every single practice. For the first half I didn’t travel with them on the weekends, but I was at every single game at home. It was kind of bitter-sweet for me just sitting and watching. It’s nice to finally be back.

How did you keep your focus while waiting until the day you could play for UBC?

It was a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. I think jumping back halfway through a season wouldn’t be as difficult as it was, but I’ve noticed in my play, I’m nowhere where I used to be. Hopefully it will come before the playoffs. It was a tough transition only practicing, because you can’t get that game speed in practice, you can only get it in the games.

You were previously with the Alberta Pandas why did you decide to make the move to UBC?

Personal reasons first and foremost. I’m from Vancouver and I grew up here so I kind of have a network here. I just wasn’t getting what I wanted to be getting out of the University of Alberta, academically hockey wise, athletically, and socially. I decided to take the plunge and so far so good. I’m really confident about my decision and I think I made a really good decision.

What kind of defenseman are you?

I’m not really sure, it changes. I like to think of myself as an offensive defenseman. I think I move the puck well and I see the ice well. This year so far I’ve been having a little bit of trouble just getting back into it. I’m not quite where I want to be so I’m not sure how I would describe myself at this point. I think, offensive d-man and I move the puck well. I’m very physical, I play a big game, I’m a pretty big girl.

How does your size help you against opponents who might think twice about going into the corners with you?

Well we can just ask the team here, the UBC girls. They were a little bit nervous about me coming in. I don’t think anybody likes playing against me in this league. I feel like I’m the type of player that you’d love to have on your team and you just don’t want to play against. I think they don’t mind.

Overall how have you fit in and been received by your teammates and the program?

This is definitely the best team I’ve ever been on in terms of a team dynamic. A lot of positivity in the dressing room, it’s not like a team I’ve ever played on before. It’s pretty genuine and it definitely translates to into our game as you can see.

UBC Thunderbirds defenseman Kirsten Toth looks on during practice.

UBC Thunderbirds defenseman Kirsten Toth looks on during practice.

Heading into the playoffs how is the confidence and emotional level of the team?

I think we’re ready to go. I think especially for a lot of them it’s been a long emotional season and I think there is no better time for playoffs than right now. I think we’ve all been building up for it. I think the girls are pretty confident and I definitely think I’m ready. Confidence is the key to success so we feel pretty good.

What does it mean to the team to have clinched a first round playoff bye?

It’s the best thing we could ask for. The first round bye means we get a little bit of a rest. Obviously we aren’t going to take any time off. We’re still going to keep the intensity up in practice, but it’s just that little extra rest that we can hopefully use to push through to nationals. It also means we get to play at our home arena so our fan base will be here for us.

What is the team’s goal, to win the Canada West Championship and the CIS National Championship?

The team goal is to definitely win the national championship. Obviously that’s our long-term goal, but right now we’re going to take it one game at a time.

What three things does this team need to do each and every game to win in the playoffs?

We definitely need to stick to our systems. I think our breakdowns throughout the year have come from a breakdown in our system. We work hard and we’re usually not the team that gets out worked. Having said that, that’s another thing. We need to make sure that we aren’t getting out worked by other teams. We need to go in with confidence and I think all three of those things we can get done.

You helped put together the ‘Stupid Questions Female Hockey Players Get Asked’ video. How did that video come about?

It came about, well it was for a class assignment. The instructions for the assignment were pretty broad, it was to create a viral video. I’ve never created a viral video before, but I figured if we’re going to do something like that we might as well have fun with it and try and send a message. It all happened so fast. I sent out a text to the girls asking if they wanted to be in a video, come to the rink. A few girls showed up and we just went from there. My classmate Bobby (Saretsky), he cut the video and made it look real good.

Why do you think certain individuals are knowledgeable about hockey in general, but not women’s hockey?

I think we’ve said it quite a few times over the last couple of months. I think it all comes down to the exposure that women get and the opportunities. They’re nothing like the opportunities and the exposure that men get. I don’t know if it’s just ignorance, but I think mostly people aren’t very educated on women’s hockey because they don’t see it, they don’t hear about it. I think that’s what it comes down to. Hopefully one day we can see some more opportunities and some more exposure in the media and get the women’s game going.

What are some of the misconceptions? 

The video says it all. It’s just silly questions that to us we just think it’s common sense, but to the average person they’re clueless, they have no idea.

Going forward what needs to be done to bring more positive, coverage, attitudes, and support for women’s hockey? 

It starts with everyone making that honest effort to cover the women’s game. It’s obviously not going to happen immediately right out of the gate. To see some sort of progress in the next couple of years would be really amazing, especially for a lot of young girls who are aspiring to be hockey players. I rarely have ever heard in my life of any young girls saying ‘I want to be a hockey player when I grow up,’ because there is just no opportunity? Right. Unless they want to sacrifice a family, a job, and money. You can’t really get those things when you’re playing professional hockey as a woman because you can’t afford it.

Did it surprise you that the video blew up?

That was the whole idea, I can’t say I’m surprised because that was the assignment. I did do some behind the scenes research on it, if there was anything like that out there and there wasn’t. There aren’t a lot of women voicing their opinion in the way that we did and I think that was the whole idea. To get through to people in a way that hasn’t been done before, because people don’t listen when women are preaching for that equality so we tried a different approach.

What was the general reaction from your friends, family, and complete strangers?

Positive. It was a positive reaction definitely from everyone and I think it was positive for a number of reasons. It was funny and also because it needed to be said. I think people realize that the women who dedicate their entire lives to this and they don’t get anything out of it. I shouldn’t say they don’t get anything out of it, because you have all the memories. At the end of the day, that’s essentially kind of heartbreaking for what some women want to make of their life with a hockey career.

Will there be another video?

Yeah we’ve talked about it. I don’t know about a sequel, I think we’ve been talking about something new. It’s definitely a project. We’re going to need some time if we do decide to get something going again. Will have to sit down and plan it out. We’re going to take some time post-season of course, because we’ve got to stay focused right now.

How is school going?

I’m a Sociology Major, it’s good.  I Major in Sociology and I think that’s kind of where I’m coming from here. There are a lot of girls who are in Kinesiology and Sciences, but this is kind of close to my heart and that’s why I chose to make the video. For me it’s just black and white, and looking at the big picture. I’m definitely an advocate for women and equality. I think it can go a long way.

Favourite hockey team?

If we’re talking NHL, I think I’d have to choose the Canucks. They’ve always been my team.

Favourite hockey player?

My favourite hockey player… a tough defenseman that can move the puck well, Shea Weber.

Why do you wear number 55?

There is no special reason to be honest. I use to wear number 5 when I was growing up coming through minor hockey and major midget. When I came to my first year at the University of Alberta, there was a veteran player that had number 5 so I just decided to add another 5 on to it and switch to 55. Now I love it, great number.

Do you have any superstitions? 

Yes I do, I have lots of superstitions. I wouldn’t expect the average person to understand, they’re a bit weird. It’s just kind of like my game-day routine, it’s a little bit OCD.

Can you share one of them?

I think it’s in my on ice warm-up. I just do everything the exact same and it’s a little bit weird. Left skate before the right skate. Yeah that definitely is a thing. When I’m on the ice and in my pre-game warm-up if something goes wrong, I just lose my mind.

What is your pre-game meal?

Oh yeah, I love to cook. My pre-game meals are always pretty extravagant. I like to focus on that on game-days. Especially on Friday’s at home, I like to get a stir-fry going or a spaghetti.

Anything else to add?

I think just to come out and support your Thunderbirds. I think it’s going to be a big closing on the season and we can expect some big things here at UBC because we’ve been working hard.

Kirsten Toth, Thank You very much and good luck in the future.

Notes: Special thanks to Kirsten Toth and the UBC Thunderbirds Women’s Hockey Team.

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