Kunins come together to celebrate Walter Cup championship

Busy schedules aligned for Sophia and Luke Kunin as the San Jose Sharks forward made the trip to Boston to support his wife on her Walter Cup victory with PWHL Minnesota.

Kunins come together to celebrate Walter Cup championship

Featured photo courtesy of Luke and Sophia Kunin

They’re a power couple made in hockey heaven.

The pride in Luke Kunin’s voice is unmistakable when he speaks of his wife, Sophia, who recently raised the Walter Cup with her hometown PWHL Minnesota.

Luke, a forward with the San Jose Sharks, was able to be in the stands when Sophia and her teammates won the winner-take-all Game 5 of the inaugural PWHL championship on the road against Boston.

“That was so cool and special to be part of, to be there to support her and the team,” said Luke.

“It was great to see the way the team came together and won it all. It was an amazing team effort all the way through.”

And one with no shortage of ups and downs for PWHL Minnesota   a late-season losing skid, squeaking into the playoffs, facing top-seeded PWHL Toronto in the first round and that was just for starters.

After falling behind 0-2 before pulling off a reverse sweep of Toronto ‚Äčin their five-game series, it appeared PWHL Minnesota had won the Walter Cup in Game 4 on home ice, but what would have been the game-winning tally was waved off and PWHL Boston scored in double-overtime to send the series back to Massachusetts.

“It was quite a journey to get to where we ended up,” said Sophia.

“We went through the losing streak, but we never lost faith in ourselves, which was huge. We looked at it through the lens of, ‘win one game and go from there.’

“For us to come back and reverse sweep Toronto and then going into the final against Boston with a lot of confidence to end in that fashion was amazing.

“We thought we had won in Minnesota, and we didn’t, but we went into Boston for the final game believing in ourselves. It was definitely a strange way to win it, but I wouldn’t have changed anything at all.”

Having her husband in the stands was the icing on the cake.

“This year, the timing worked out well, where Luke was able to come back from playing with the U.S. team at the world championships in Prague and watch the last two games. He came to Game 4 in Minnesota and the final game in Boston.

“To have him there was very special, to be able to witness me and my teammates playing.”

Seeing Sophia hoist the Walter Cup was also a special moment for Luke.

“She has had to move around quite a bit for me throughout my career and has always been there, putting me first. It was nice that I could return the favour, so to speak, and be there to support her and cheer her and the team on.”

Supporting one another, whether in the stands or from afar, has been a cornerstone of their relationship, which began during their collegiate hockey days when the two met at the University of Wisconsin ahead of their freshman years.

Luke would become a key member of a Badgers squad that he would go on to captain in his sophomore campaign. Sophia also wore the ‘C’ and played a pivotal role in the Badgers 2019 NCAA National Championship in women’s ice hockey, where she netted the game-winning goal for the title.

But Luke and Sophia, who hold the unique distinction of being the first NHL-PWHL married couple after exchanging vows last summer, don’t just share the same collegiate hockey background.

Their playing styles are quite similar too.

“She is a great skater and a player who can do a little bit of everything,” praised Luke.

“She’s won everywhere she has played, so that speaks a lot to what type of competitor she is.”

“I would say we are kind of the same,” offered Sophia. “We play similar roles, and we are both very competitive.”

A quality that extends beyond the arena.

“We are competitive in a lot of things because we share a lot of the same interests,” said Luke.

“We play tennis against each other, but we are the same team for pickleball when we play against our parents or friends,” noted Sophia. “We’re actually pretty good teammates as well.”

They are also the ultimate team players when it comes to being the other’s biggest cheerleader.

It was one of many things that came to Sophia’s mind in the days following the Walter Cup celebrations.

“You are on such a high when you win and it’s tough to wrap your mind around it in the moment.

“The past few days, I have been thinking a lot about what we were part of, being the first team to win the Walter Cup. It’s historic and we are all very proud and grateful to be part of that.

“I am so glad Luke was there to see it. I think it meant a lot to him.”

It most certainly did.

“To watch Sophia and her teammates work so hard and never give up that was something special to watch.”  

For the next few months, the couple will unwind from last season and spend quality time together.

They will have their beloved French bulldog, Rocco, along for the ride.

“It can be quite a hectic life at certain points, so we can take some time to relax and just enjoy one another’s company,” said Luke.