Back to hockey for Bendus 0
Wasaga Beach's Vicki Bendus, in action against Team U.S.A. in 2011
Wasaga Beach native Vicki Bendus said she accomplished one of her big career goals earlier this year, playing for Canada’s senior women’s team at the Worlds.
Bendus is now in full swing as she gears up for the upcoming hockey season with with off-ice training six days a week, with four of those days practicing on the ice.
Her season kicks off the week of Sept. 23 in Calgary for Team Canada tryouts.
She only took a few weeks off to recover after coming off the ice with a gold medal for Canada during the 2012 IIHF Women’s Worlds held in Vermont in April — a win she said still hasn’t completely sunk in.
“It was really cool. It was something that I probably won’t appreciate for a little while after, but being there in the moment the game was so exciting and so close,” said Bendus. “The adrenaline was pumping and it was end-to-end; when we finally scored in overtime it was just a huge celebration and just a great feeling of excitement.”
The Canadians played the United States in the finals and won 5-4 in overtime.
She said it was exciting being on the “big-stage” and achieving her long time goal of getting to play with the Canadian team.
“It’s pretty unreal,” she said. “It’s something that you set as a goal for yourself when you are really young and see the Canada team playing in the Olympics.
“So, when I finally got to play in a world championships on the senior team, it was really special.”
Bendus is working towards being a player for Team Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia — a goal she said she believes is within her reach with more training and hard work.
Bendus said she needs to work on improving her strength and speed. At 5’2”, she self-identified as one of the smaller players — something she recognizes requires her to improve her strength on the puck so bigger girls can’t knock her off it.
She said being shorter has given her the ability to read plays well and have strong play-making skills.
She is doing a lot of weightlifting, squats, and sprinting to increase her strength and speed.
Bendus is used to cross-training, because she played “a laundry list” of sports growing up. The list included soccer, basketball, volleyball, golf, tennis, skiing, water skiing, and mountain biking.
“Pretty much anything I could get my hands on I would play,” she said.
Playing a variety of sports is something she encourages young aspiring hockey players to do.
“I think playing different sports makes you a better athlete and down the road it is going to make you better at hockey,” she said.
She also advised: “Make sure you love what you are doing. Don’t put yourself through the training and the practices if you don’t really love it. But, if you really love it than go all out.”
She credited much of her success in her hockey career to her family, who encouraged and supported her from the day she put on her first pair of skates at age three. Her older brother was playing hockey at the time so she wanted to emulate him.
“They put me in figure skating and I didn’t like that too much. So, they put me in hockey skates and gave me a hockey stick and I took to that a bit more,” she said.
She said her father coached her throughout minor hockey and both her parents drove her to rinks all around the province.
She started out playing boys hockey in the Wasaga Beach Minor Hockey Association. She said playing with the boys probably helped with her skills and speed.
When she was older she played in the Clearview Women’s Hockey Association, an association that felt like family, she said.
She went on to win gold for Team Ontario at the Canada Winter Games in 2007, a gold and then a silver for Canada at the Women’s Four Nations in 2010 and 2011. Then she won yet another gold in 2011 at the Women’s MLP Cup in Switzerland, where she was the leading scorer of the tournament.
She also played for and was the assistant captain for Mercyhurst Lakers women’s team — her alma mater located in Erie, Pennsylvannia. In 2010, Bendus won the Patty Kazmaier Award, which is awarded to the top female college ice hockey player in the United States.
For Bendus there was never any doubt that hockey was going to be the sport that stuck, a sport she loves because it is fast-paced, requires a high level of skill and provides for a great team atmosphere.
“(Hockey) was always my favourite sport, but my parents thought it would be better if I was able to play a lot of sports when I was young and be exposed to a lot of different things and I was,” she said.
“But, it always came back to hockey.”