Sophia Kunin helped lead PWHL Minnesota to the Walter Cup Championship. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE PWHL

Former Wayzata star won gold, a national title and a professional title

by Bryan Zollman, Let’s Play Hockey

Sophia Kunin announced her retirement on Monday at age 27 just weeks after helping lead PWHL Minnesota to the inaugural Walter Cup championship.

It was the last of many trophies Kunin (formerly Shaver) has hoisted in her hockey career.

A native of Wayzata, she was a varsity hockey player at Wayzata High School graduating in 2014 as a finalist for the Ms. Hockey Award. She joined the University of Wisconsin the following year and in 154 career games spanning four seasons tallied 80 points. She served as captain of the 2018-19 squad that won a national championship, scoring the game-winning goal in the title game in a 2-0 win over the University of Minnesota.

“As a little girl I could have only imagined where my love for hockey would would take me in life,” she posted on social media. “For the last 20 years the game of hockey has brought me so many unforgettable memories and experiences, but I am ready and excited to move on to the next chapter in my life.”

Kunin is married to former Minnesota Wild forward and current Nashville Predator Luke Kunin, who was also a star player at the University of Wisconsin.

After leading the Badgers to a national title, Sophia Kunin joined the PWHPA and played for Minnesota form 2019-2022. She joined Team Harvey’s for the 2022-23 season before being drafted by PWHL Minnesota last season. She was one of 12 Minnesota-born players who helped lead Minnesota to the Walter Cup championship. She played in 24 games and had two goals and an assist. In 10 playoff games she recorded one goal.

In addition to her title at Wisconsin and last season’s championship for PWHL Minnesota, Kunin was also a member of Team USA’s U-18 national team that won a gold medal in 2015 at the U-18 World Championships.

Kunin raises the Walter Cup after PWHL Minnesota defeated PWHL Boston to claim the first championship in the league’s history. PHOTO COURTESY OF PWHL

“To my teammates, the memories we’ve made over the years are ones I will never forget,” she wrote. “You ladies have been with me through so many ups and downs, and I am forever grateful to the sport of hockey for bringing me friends that have turned into sisters.”

She also thanked her family for the sacrifices they have made over they years as she chased her hockey dreams.

“To my family, you have made countless sacrifices to allow me to live out my dream,” she wrote. “You’ve been my biggest cheerleaders throughout my career and I’m incredibly lucky to have such an amazing support system.”

Kunin pointed to the stresses of two spouses playing professional hockey and being apart much of the time due to travel.

“To Luke, this season we were both able to live out our professional hockey dreams at the same time,” she wrote. “With that came months of long distance, hours of phone calls, and a great deal of understanding and sacrifice. Thank you for supporting my dream and cheering on every step of the way.”

Kunin started out like any young female hockey player in the state of hockey, toiling around on rinks and ponds as a youngster and falling n love with the sport — a sport that would end with her hoisting the Walter Cup and finishing her career like every hockey player dreams of – as a champion.

“While this chapter of my life comes to a close,” she wrote, “my love for the game of hockey will always be a huge part of me. Excited for what’s to come.”