November 18, 2019 by Speakers' Spotlight
How Hayley Wickenheiser Changed the “Good Ol’ Hockey Game” on Her Way to the Hall of Fame
With seven world championships, six Olympic appearances, and five Olympic medals to her name, Hayley Wickenheiser will join the ranks of the hockey greats as she’s inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame this month. She headlines a 2019 class that includes Guy Carbonneau, Sergei Zubov, Vaclav Nedomansky, Jim Rutherford, and Jerry York.
Hayley has come a long way since playing hockey as a young girl, trying to go unnoticed in a game that at the time traditionally belonged to boys and men.
In a CBC article, Hayley said “I remember having a lot of anxiety going to the rink. I didn’t want to deal with people going, ‘Oh, there’s the girl.'”
When she got on the ice through, Hayley shined. “It was my safe place,” she told CBC. “I felt like I was good. I belonged.” Hayley attracted a lot of attention on the ice because she was such a good player even from a young age. She told CBC that she heard and saw a lot of stuff that she hopes girls in sport don’t have to experience today.
Hayley joined the Canadian Women’s National Team when she was just 15 years old. She won seven gold and four silver medals at the Women’s World Hockey Championships.
CBC spoke with Danielle Goyette, one of six women already inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame — Hayley will become the seventh this month — and who played with Hayley on Team Canada. “She was a power forward with a great shot,” Goyette said. “She could put the puck in the net and make plays, but, at the same time, she was so physical. She was not afraid to go in the corner, get the puck and do something with it.
“She changed the game. Before she came along, the women’s game wasn’t nearly as physical.”
Hayley also made hockey history when she became the first female player to score a point in a men’s professional game, having played for men’s hockey leagues in both Finland and Sweden. She was also the first woman in history to have played in/coached at four NHL development camps with the Philadelphia Flyers, the Edmonton Oilers, and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Of course, Hayley is most well-known for her efforts with Team Canada, winning a silver medal at the 1998 Nagano games and becoming a household name in the 2002 Salt Lake City games. As CBC writes:
Burned in our collective memories from those Olympics are her epic rink-side rant from those Games — “the Americans had our flag on the floor in their dressing room, and now I want to know if they want us to sign it” — and her victory lap with son Noah cradled in her arms.
“I remember stepping off the ice [in Salt Lake City], and I was the first to open the dressing room door,” she says. “And there’s Wayne Gretzky and [fellow former Oiler] Kevin Lowe standing there.
“I actually just took a second and thought, `Wow. This is a full-circle moment.’ I grew up idolizing these guys, and there they were standing in our room that day.”
Hayley went on to win three more Olympic medals, one with a fractured elbow and the other with a broken foot.
“The elbow wasn’t bad — it was just freeze and go,” Hayley told CBC. “The foot was bad. I had two surgeries after those Olympics, including foot reconstruction surgery.”
Since retiring in 2017 as the all-time leading scorer for Canada, with 168 goals and 211 assists in 276 games over the course of her 23 year-long career, Hayley has dedicated herself to medical school and is currently the assistant director of player development for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Beyond sport, Hayley is a community leader and an accomplished student and business woman who inspires people to give their best in everything they do.
Interested in learning more about Hayley and what she can bring to your next event? Email us at [email protected].