[SPORTS] Noriko Kariya - Boxer
- BANG, Not Byng
While the Ducks' Paul Kariya has made a successful hockey living out
of not fighting, that style won't work with younger sister Noriko,
who is unbeaten in her young boxing career
The Stanley Cup finals begin this week, the Mighty Ducks are there,
and a Kariya will be brawling.
Chasing opponents into corners. Stunning them with quick jabs.
Waiting for that delicious moment when they crumple.
"I know it sounds evil, but I love it when you hit somebody right on
the nose and they go down," she says. "I just love it."
This Kariya is not the hockey player.
This Kariya is his sister.
Noriko Kariya, an unbeaten amateur boxer, hears the catcalls and
"Oh, so you're the fighter in the family!" fans shout.
Paul Kariya, the Ducks' polite captain, hears it and smiles.
"Obviously," he says.
Here in the land of cartoons turned real, where the Mighty has
become greater than the Duck, the wonders never cease.
One of the players has a sister who fights?
And that player is the two-time winner of the Lady Byng Trophy for
Says Noriko, proudly: "I box just about every day."
Says Paul, just as proud: "I haven't been in a fight in my career."
At first glance, the differences between the siblings are as great
as those between a Zamboni and a curling broom.
Noriko, 23, is a 126-pound featherweight who is 5-0 in less than one
Paul, 28, is a 182-pound cruiserweight who has yet to drop his stick
in nine years.
Noriko regularly climbs into the ring for bouts lasting six minutes.
Paul once spent only six minutes in the penalty box in an entire
Growing up in Vancouver, Paul remembers once bugging Noriko while
she was talking on the phone to a boy.
"She hung up the phone, came downstairs, and belted me," he says.
Of Tetsuhiko and Sharon Kariya's three boys and two girls, Noriko
was fire and Paul was ice.
Noriko remembers: "Everybody else in the family was finesse. Not me."
Paul remembers: "I've gotten a few right crosses from her in my day."
While Paul began playing ice hockey, Noriko played field hockey.
After he became an All-Star with the Ducks, she became an All-
American at the University of Maine.
He ended up stuck in a struggling Duck franchise.
She ended up stuck in a fancy Toronto hair salon as a stylist and
Then, suddenly, last summer, those Kariya kids didn't seem so
different after all.
A continent apart in postal codes and personalities, they embarked
on similar missions stitched together by genes.
Even though he was meeting his sixth head coach in nine years, Paul
chose to integrate himself into Mike Babcock's system without fuss,
sacrificing his personal numbers in hopes of a championship that
seemed terribly distant at the time.
Even though she has a degree in psychology, Noriko decided to go
knock somebody's lights out.
Says Paul: "After winning the Olympic gold medal with Canada, I
realized, this is all there is. You win, or you lose. There's
nothing else. At the end of the day, it's the only feeling that
Says Noriko: "My father was worried I would ruin my hands for
cosmetology if I boxed. But I needed the challenge. I needed to be
tested. It runs in our family."
While their careers have run down opposite paths, the parallelism in
those paths is striking.
By losing himself, Kariya has experienced the greatest season of his
By losing herself, Noriko has found a career.
Both transformations have come, perhaps not coincidentally, amid the
loss of their father, nicknamed "T.K.," who died of a heart attack
in Vancouver on Dec. 27.
Kariya chose to honor his father by playing for the Ducks in
Vancouver the next night. Noriko was so distraught she couldn't
"My father never wanted us to stop doing what we were doing," says
Paul. "He taught us to finish what we started. That's one of the
reasons I've always wanted to stay in Anaheim. I want to finish what
The inspiration remained with Paul throughout the winter. He scored
the fewest goals in any of his full Duck regular seasons 25 but
discovered a reputation as a leader. He sacrificed the spotlight to
the likes of Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Petr Sykora but has been
embraced by fans as the most golden of oldies.
Who had the puck on his stick in the third overtime of the playoff
opener against Detroit? Whose goal gave them the win that fueled
this amazing playoff run? Who do you think?
Not that Kariya thinks any of this star-becomes-soldier routine is a
"When a coach comes in and tells you what to do, you do it," Kariya
says. "It's not 'refreshing.' It's just the way it is. This is how
Babcock, who says Kariya is "light-years" better than when the
season started how is that possible? agrees that his attitude is
no big deal.
"Why would you not be like that?" says Babcock, who obviously hasn't
been watching much NBA these days. "Why would you want to put
yourself in the way?"
Whatever, Kariya certainly didn't, paving the way for a championship
that he was the only Duck to dare to publicly dream about so many
A similar feeling fills Noriko, who was so impressive in her first
five fights, she has had seven consecutive potential opponents
"The word has gotten out on her, and it has nothing to do with her
name," says Brian Bynoe, her co-trainer at the K.O. King Boxing club
in Toronto. "She has great hand speed, tremendous punching power.
The hardest part now is finding her a fight."
That, and getting some sleep. Noriko works as a waitress at a bar-
restaurant at night, and works out during the day. Her goal is to
eventually turn professional, not with the circus flailing of a
Tonya Harding, but with the real punching of a Christy Martin.
"I've been tested like I've never been tested, but I'm lucky," she
says. "I have this mental thing that helps me get through it. It has
helped me in all sports. Everyone in my family has it."
Paul has never seen her fight. Noriko often watches him play.
Sometimes it drives her crazy.
"I see some of the things that happen in here and it's like, if that
were me, I'd be in there fighting," she said.
Paul, ever the gentleman, would let her.
"Women should be allowed to do anything, because they're tougher
than men," he says. "If you have the ability to go through
childbirth, that's tougher than anything we do."
Even tougher than hanging around in Anaheim for nine years waiting
for a championship?
Says Noriko: "My brother has such tenacity, such drive, I can't
imagine how he's done it."
Says Paul: "I guess it runs in the family."