Forging the Way Forward
Never has Hayley Wickenheiser’s mantra been more applicable than 2020 and beyond. Drawing on her journey from a rookie to a veteran in competitive hockey with four Olympic gold medals, Wickenheiser relates her experiences — and the changes and challenges she faced— to show the importance of adaptability when it comes to long-term success. Wickenheiser has honed these skills over the years as she coaches teams on how to build this crucial skill to meet the demands of our future.
“You’re the female Gordie Howe.”
In an emotional pre-game tribute at centre ice with the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames looking on, Wayne Gretzky solidified Hayley Wickenheiser’s place among the greatest hockey players in history.
After 23 years on the Canadian National Team, Hayley had made the decision to retire with the knowledge that her impact on the game has reached every corner of Canada and every country with enough winter ice and a desire to learn how to play hockey.
Off the ice, Hayley’s achievements are almost immeasurable.
Sports Illustrated ranked her number 20 of 25 Toughest Athletes in the World, she’s a two-time finalist for the Women’s Sports Foundation Team Athlete of The Year, was named among the Globe and Mail’s “Power 50” influencers in sport several times, and was recognized by QMI Agency in the Top 10 “Greatest Female Athletes in the History of Sports.”
In 2011, Hayley was appointed to the Order of Canada “for her achievements as an athlete and for her contributions to the growth of women’s hockey” and was voted to the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Athletes’ Commission in 2015.
Wickenheiser’s passion for hockey is matched only by a desire to give back to the community through her work with JumpStart, KidSport, Project North and Right to Play.
She’s travelled the world to support those efforts, including trips to the furthest northern communities of Canada and as far away as Rwanda and Ghana.
Her most profound and personal project has been the creation of the Canadian Tire Wickenheiser Female World Hockey Festival, or WickFest.
Now in its tenth year, the event hosts over 1,500 female hockey players from around the world in Calgary and in Surrey, giving girls access to hockey skill development and educational sessions on and off the ice.
In 2013, she graduated with a Bachelors in Kinesiology from the University of Calgary and completed her Masters, running a study that researched the connection between physical activity and the neurology of autistic youth and she’s currently pursuing a Medical Degree.
In the summer of 2018, Hayley received a call from newly-minted Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas with an opportunity to join the team as the club’s Assistant Director of Player Development.
What excited Hayley most was that it wasn’t a decision based on gender. “The biggest reason why I was intrigued about this role is that Kyle was interested in me — not to hire a woman, but to hire someone who could do the job,” said Wickenheiser.
As for the gender-barrier-breaking potential for women’s sport and coaching, Hayley recognizes the impact that her trailblazing career continues to have both on and off the ice.
“I understand that there will be a lot of young girls who see this as knocking down barriers for them to dream and maybe do the same thing,” added Wickenheiser.
Now, as part of the growth and development of the most storied franchise in the NHL, Hayley will take to the ice with a young core of talent and the same passion, ambition and simple goal that’s she’s maintained throughout her career:
In 2019, she will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, following the minimum waiting period of three years. It’s an honour that Hayley tried to put into perspective.
“Outside of winning an Olympic gold medal, for a personal accomplishment, this is probably the holy grail,” she said.
During her Hockey Hall of Fame induction speech, she reflected on the adversity that shaped her, the moments that made her a household name, the competitive spirit that drove her to be the best, and the trailblazers that led the way.