Wickenheiser joins the Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame
It may not have been the most high profile honour of her career, but Hayley Wickenheiser was still thrilled to be inducted into the Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame close to her hometown of Shaunavon.
“It’s a big honour. I’ve received a lot of awards and accolades through my career, but this one is very special,” said Wickenheiser prior to the induction banquet in Swift Current on July 7. “My heart is always in Saskatchewan. I’ve lived in Alberta for a long time, but I am still from Saskatchewan and it’s a very big part of where I started in hockey and my roots and the value system that I have. So being able to come back and share this night with all the other inductees and have my parents here, it’s going to be a fun night.”
The four-time Olympic gold medalist is widely considered the greatest female hockey player of all-time. Wickenheiser’s list of accolades includes the Order of Canada and a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame.
“I’ve had a lot of awards and this one is as important to me as any of them. But I guess because this is my home, I think maybe for people if they come to the Hall of Fame here and they see my display and other females, after Fiona Smith and Colleen Sostorics that went in a few years ago, it’s just nice to see more and more girls playing hockey.”
The ceremony was a chance to reflect on an illustrious hockey career that even passed through Swift Current.
“I remember trying to get into a hockey school here in Swift Current when I was seven years old. My mom called many times and they said no and finally on the last call she said I think this is more of a human rights issue than it is a hockey issue and they let me in. I changed in the car. My dad would put my skates on in the rink. All the old farmers would come and be ‘I heard there’s a girl here,” she laughed. No one could figure out who the girl was on the ice. It’s come a long ways from that point and I am happy to be able to come back under much better circumstances.”
Wickenheiser helped raise the profile of women’s hockey with four Olympic gold medals and even became the first women to score a goal in a semi-professional league in 2003 with HC Salamat in Suomi-sarja in Finland.
“There’s still lots of work of course that needs to be done,” she said when asked about the state of women’s hockey. “We’re not where I would want to see the game yet. It has in 30 years I guess since that moment, I was just at Canadian Tire and there was little girls hockey players walking in all day long buying equipment and talking to me about their experiences, so it’s much easier now. I think the next step is women’s professional hockey and that’s where we really need to go.”
She remains grateful for the game of hockey that took her to Olympic Games in Canada, the United States, Italy, Japan, and Russia.
“Everything I have in life I owe to the game of hockey. It’s a chance to travel the world, an education, my family, everything. I love the game. I think I’ll always in some way be connected to the game. It’s hard to leave it once it’s in your blood. It really has opened the doors for a little girl from Shaunavon, who maybe thought I didn’t know where hockey would take me. Now it literally has taken me around the world and given me a chance to do things that I never would have done. I really owe all my credit to the people in Shaunavon that helped me to get to where I am, my parents. Of course just this province that builds resiliency in people. I am very proud to be from Saskatchewan.”
Wickenheiser, who is pursuing a career in medicine, recently spent a week coaching at the Toronto Maple Leafs development camp.
“I’ll try to combine hockey and medicine the best I can moving forward. Coaching, right now I’m not sure if it’s in my future. It’s a big full time job to be coaching, but maybe eventually I can start in player development and see where that goes.”
Hayley Wickenheiser was inducted into the Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Swift Current earlier this summer.