Listed at 5-foot-2 and 110 pounds, Vicki Bendus has always used her size as a motivation to grow her game and show her talent to the world.
Bendus has proven that size can’t hold her back by playing at the highest level of women’s hockey and on the world stage.
And in February, she will do that, at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, as a member of the Canadian women’s hockey team.
Getting an opportunity to put on the maple leaf of Team Canada is something that Bendus holds close to her heart.
“It’s hard to put into words. It’s a dream come true and it never gets old. Putting on the Canadian jersey is an absolute honour,” says Bendus.
“When we walk out to warm up before a game and knowing the crowd is behind you, it is a magical feeling that never gets old.”
Brendan Gallagher, forward for the Montreal Canadiens, is Bendus’ inspiration.
“I love the way he plays the game and how much energy he brings to the Habs,” says Bendus. “He brings it offensively every night and has become one of the best players.”
During the 2010 hockey year, Bendus was the winner of the Patty Kazmaier Award which is given to the top female college ice hockey player in the U.S.
While being in Team Canada is a full-time job during an Olympic year, Bendus is also a member of the Brampton Thunder of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL).
Bendus feels that being a responsible player in all three zones on the ice is her most important quality as a player.
“I pride myself on being a gritty, dependable player who’s willing to do all the little things: block shots, key face-offs and bringing energy to the team,” says Bendus.
Bendus has developed a keen vision and creativity on the ice, enabling herself the opportunity to get out the corners, mostly unscathed.
Growing up in Wasaga Beach, Ont., Bendus got plenty of help from her family. Her father, Gary, always used to coach and encourage her .
“My dad was always there for me. We’d go to the outdoor rinks and work on all the aspects of the game,” says Bendus.
Like most Canadian kids, Bendus’ family had an outdoor rink in their backyard, and Bendus was on the ice as much as possible.
While playing against the rival U.S. team on a recent road trip, Team Canada was victorious on both occasions, which isn’t common anymore as both teams are so evenly matched.
“The games against the U.S. are so much fun. We look forward to these games all year. There’s so much energy and buildup that when we’re out to play, it’s a tight game,” says Bendus.
“They’re all our enemies. We wanted to show them that beating us at the World Championships was an anomaly of who we really are.”
The coaching staff of Team Canada has the girls on a strict and busy schedule in preparations of defending their gold medal triumph in Vancouver at the 2010 Olympics.
“Every day is mapped out for us. All of us stick to the game plan,” says Bendus.
“We’re building towards being at peak level by the start of the Olympics. So far, there’s been a lot of off-ice training and conditioning, lots of weights.”
“Hockey-wise, we are watching lots of video and breaking down all the areas where can make improvements.” said an exhausted Bendus after the women’s practice in Calgary.