Wick­en­heiser takes up po­si­tion

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - LANCE HORNBY [email protected]­media.com

TORONTO The Toronto Maple Leafs re­al­ized how much of an ef­fect Hay­ley Wick­en­heiser was hav­ing as guest coach at their June prospects camp, how young­sters heeded her ad­vice and the re­spect she was ac­corded.

While the idea of her one day break­ing into the NHL’s boys’ club in hockey op­er­a­tions was idle chat­ter at the time, Kyle Dubas was al­ready for­mu­lat­ing a move. On Thurs­day, the 32-year-old Leafs gen­eral man­ager hired the former na­tional women’s team star as as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of player de­vel­op­ment.

In a fur­ther move, the club hired Noelle Need­ham as a re­gional scout for the U.S. Mid­west.

“We’re look­ing for the best people, pe­riod,” Dubas said, though he added “re­search shows the more di­verse your or­ga­ni­za­tion, the bet­ter your de­ci­sion mak­ing, the bet­ter your op­er­a­tion in gen­eral. If you’re only hir­ing white males — and I say this as a white male — you’re prob­a­bly leav­ing a lot on the table in terms of where your or­ga­ni­za­tion can go, can think and how it can de­velop.

“In this case, I thought Hay­ley was cer­tainly the best can­di­date be­cause of her ex­per­tise in hockey, her ex­pe­ri­ence in be­ing an elite player at every level. At our de­vel­op­ment camp, get­ting to know her and talk to her, I just felt the way she thinks about hockey and life could be a mas­sive ben­e­fit to player de­vel­op­ment, our pro­gram in gen­eral and all play­ers who are in it.”

Wick­en­heiser, 40, will be work­ing un­der Scott Pel­lerin, who was el­e­vated Thurs­day to se­nior di­rec­tor of player de­vel­op­ment, and di­rec­tor Stephane Ro­bidas, who also was pro­moted.

It’s likely the move also re­ceived a push from pres­i­dent Bren­dan Shana­han, who is try­ing to cre­ate a mod­ern iden­tity for the fran­chise, and head coach Mike Babcock, who shares Saskatchewan roots and a na­tional pro­gram his­tory with Wick­en­heiser.

“What the Leafs are do­ing is for­ward think­ing,” Wick­en­heiser said. “I’m pretty con­fi­dent I can help play­ers get bet­ter or have them un­der­stand what it takes to get bet­ter.

“Every time you step on the ice, whether it’s with a player or a coach, you can al­ways take some­thing away and it’s about be­ing able to trans­late that to a player, to help him or her get bet­ter with their game.”

Wick­en­heiser grasped some tenets of player de­vel­op­ment from her friend­ship with skills coach Dar­ryl Bel­fry, an­other mem­ber of the Leafs staff who likely in­flu­enced Dubas.

As Dubas spoke from the Mas­ter­card Cen­tre, skat­ing coach Barb Un­der­hill was at ice level work­ing with ar­rivals at Toronto’s camp. Last week, the Leafs added Meg Popovic as di­rec­tor of ath­lete well-be­ing and per­for­mance to their grow­ing sports-science team.

Wick­en­heiser will be based near the Univer­sity of Cal­gary, where she is work­ing on her med­i­cal de­gree and can mon­i­tor the three Western Hockey League prospects Toronto has in the area.

Hay­ley Wick­en­heiser


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