Hayley Wickenheiser

Hayley Wickenheiser, OC, hockey player, softball player (born 12 August 1978 in Shaunavon, Saskatchewan). A four-time Olympic gold medallist, Wickenheiser is the all-time leader in goals (18), assists (33), and points (51) for women’s ice hockey at the Olympic Winter Games and all-time leader in assists (49) and points (86) at the Women’s World Hockey Championship. She was also the first woman to score a goal in a men’s professional league. Wickenheiser retired from competitive hockey on 13 January 2017, finishing with 379 points (168 goals and 211 assists) in 276 games with Team Canada.

Hayley Wickenheiser (foreground) and her teammates celebrate their victory over the United States (3 - 2) at the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia on Febrauary 20th, 2014. Image: The Canadian Press/HO, COC/Mike Ridewood.\r\n

Early Hockey Career

Like many Canadian hockey players, Hayley Wickenheiser first started playing ice hockey on a backyard rink built by her father. In 1990, Wickenheiser moved with her family to Calgary and then represented Alberta at the 1991 Canada Winter Games in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Wickenheiser played extremely well, even though she was only 12 years old at the time Participating in a tournament for teenage girls aged 17 and younger, she was not only the youngest player on her team but also the smallest (only 1.5 m or five feet tall). She scored three goals in the tournament, including the game-winning goal in the championship final as Team Alberta won the gold medal. Wickenheiser was named the tournament’s most valuable player (MVP).

International Women’s Hockey

The year 1992 would be a significant year for women’s hockey. Two years after Ottawa hosted the very first Women’s World Hockey Championship in 1990, the International Olympic Committee gave women’s ice hockey full-medal status for the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano. For Hayley Wickenheiser, these competitions were an opportunity to showcase her skills on the international sporting stage.

IIHF World Hockey Championships

Hayley Wickenheiser played in her first IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championship for Team Canada in 1994 at Lake Placid, New York. At age 15, Wickenheiser was still the youngest player on her team. She played three games and posted one assist to help Canada win the gold medal.

At the 1997 World Championships in Kitchener, Ontario, 18-year-old Wickenheiser became an offensive force. She led Team Canada in scoring with nine points, and notched an assist on the overtime game-winning goal in the championship final as Canada defeated the United States 4–3. Wickenheiser later led Canada to the 1999 and 2000 Women’s World Hockey Championship titles, but was unable to attend the 2001 World Championship because of a knee injury. She was part of the gold medal-winning team again in 2004. However, in 2005, Team Canada lost the gold-medal game of the Women’s World Hockey Championship to the United States for the first time.

In 2007, Wickenheiser set a Canadian record for most points (14) at a Women’s World Hockey Championship with eight goals and six assists. At the tournament in Winnipeg, Team Canada won its first World Championship since 2004 by beating the United States 5–1 in the gold-medal game. Wickenheiser, who took over the captaincy from Cassie Campbell, was the tournament MVP. She was also the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award winner as the Canadian Press Female Athlete of the Year in 2007.

Wickenheiser was also part of Team Canada in 2008, 2009 and 2011, when the Canadians took silver, losing the final games to the United States. In 2012, she displayed outstanding leadership at the Women’s World Hockey Championship in Burlington, Vermont, where Team Canada won the gold medal by beating the United States 5–4 in overtime, after being defeated by the Americans 9–2 in the preliminary round. At the 2013 championship in Ottawa and the 2016 championship in Kamloops, Wickenheiser and Team Canada took silver (the American team again won gold both years). She did not compete at the 2015 world championship due to surgery on her foot.

In total, Wickenheiser won seven gold medals and six silver medals with Team Canada at the IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championship.

Olympic Career

Hayley Wickenheiser was a force at the Olympic Games as well. However, despite Canada’s dominance at the World Championships in 1997, the team was not guaranteed an Olympic gold at the Games the following year. At the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, the United States defeated Canada 3–1 to win the first Olympic women’s hockey tournament. Wickenheiser would have to settle for an Olympic silver medal.

Women's Olympic Hockey Team accepts the silver medal at the Nagano Olympics, 1998. Image: Maclean's.

She would not have to wait long for gold, however. At the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Wickenheiser was the tournament’s most valuable player as Team Canada captured their first Olympic gold medal with a 3–2 win over the United States. Wickenheiser was the co-leader in goals (seven) and points (ten).

Women's Olympic Hockey Team celebrating their gold medal win at the Salt Lake Olympics on February 21st, 2002. \r\n Image: Canadian Press Images.

At the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin, the expectations were that Canada would need another strong performance from Wickenheiser to beat the Americans. In a major surprise, Sweden upset the United States in the semifinal, setting up an unexpected gold-medal game with Canada. The Canadians were victorious 4–1 in the gold-medal contest with Wickenheiser once again named tournament MVP, leading the tournament with 12 assists and 17 points.

Hayley Wickenheiser playing in the Team Canada vs. Sweden game at UBC Thunderbird arena in Vancouver, B.C. on February 17th, 2010. Image: VancityAllie/flickr.com (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)\r\n
Women's Olympic Hockey Team in Torino, Italy, 2006 celebrating their gold medal win. Image: Canadian Press.

Wickenheiser won her third gold medal in women’s hockey at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. These Olympic Games were special for Wickenheiser; not only were they her fifth Olympic Games (she had also competed in women’s softball at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney), she also delivered the athlete’s oath during the Opening Ceremonies.

Hayley Wickenheiser (foreground) and her teammates celebrate their victory over the United States (3 - 2) at the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia on Febrauary 20th, 2014. Image: The Canadian Press/HO, COC/Mike Ridewood.\r\n

At the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Wickenheiser was chosen to be the Canadian flag-bearer in the Opening Ceremonies. In the Olympic tournament, Wickenheiser notched two goals and three assists for five points in five games as Team Canada won their fourth consecutive gold medal.

However, it may be an overtime play in the gold-medal game that will be remembered most by Canadians. With the game tied at two goals apiece, Wickenheiser went on a breakaway, pursued closely by American player Hilary Knight. Wickenheiser fell, and the referee sent Knight off for cross-checking (Knight denied the penalty, but commentators agree there was likely some form of contact). To the surprise of many, there was no penalty shot, but during the Canadian power play, Marie-Philip Poulin scored the dramatic golden goal for Canada in another 3–2 victory.

In total, Wickenheiser won four gold medals and one silver medal in hockey at the Olympic Winter Games.

Career in Men’s Professional League

In 2002–03, Hayley Wickenheiser played in a Finnish men’s league, scoring two goals and nine assists for HC Salamat. When she scored her first goal for the team on 31 January 2003, she became the first woman to score a goal in a men’s professional league. The following season, she played 10 games for Salamat. In 2008–09, she played with Eskilstuna Linden in a Swedish men’s league.

Post-Playing Career

Hayley Wickenheiser retired from competitive hockey in 2017, finishing with 379 points (168 goals and 211 assists) in 276 games with Team Canada. Her decision was influenced by two factors: her desire to spend more time with her son, Noah, and her plans to attend medical school. Wickenheiser began studies in health sciences prior to her retirement, earning a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology in 2013 and a Master of Science in 2016 from the University of Calgary. Her master’s research looked at “changes in cerebral blood flow in young adults with autism after high-intensity exercise intervention.” She entered the university’s Cumming School of Medicine in 2018. 

In August 2018, Wickenheiser was hired by the Toronto Maple Leafs as assistant director of player development, becoming the first woman to hold that position with the franchise. She is one of several women on staff, including Dr. Meg Popovic, director of athlete wellbeing and performance; Barb Underhill, skating development consultant; and American Noelle Needham, who was hired as an amateur scout the same year.

Charitable Activities

In 2009, Hayley Wickenheiser established the Canadian Tire Wickenheiser World Female Hockey Festival (WickFest), which provides training for thousands of young female hockey players each year. She has also been involved with several charitable organizations and initiatives, including Plan Canada’s Because I am a Girl, Jumpstart, KidSport, Project North and Right To Play.

Honours and Awards


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Further Reading

  • 1999 Canadian National Women’s Team Media Guide (1999); 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Media Guide (2013); Ralph Dinger, ed., 2003 National Hockey League Official Guide and Record Book (2002); Ralph Dinger, ed., 2007 National Hockey League Official Guide and Record Book (2006); Elizabeth Etue, Hayley Wickenheiser: Born to Play (2005); Jonathon Gatehouse, “How the Canadian women’s hockey team came to dominate the world,” Maclean’s Magazine (March 3, 2006);Andrew Podnieks, ed., IIHF Guide and Record Book 2013 (2012).

  • 1999 Canadian National Women’s Team Media Guide (1999); 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Media Guide (2013); Ralph Dinger, ed., 2003 National Hockey League Official Guide and Record Book (2002); Ralph Dinger, ed., 2007 National Hockey League Official Guide and Record Book (2006); Elizabeth Etue, Hayley Wickenheiser: Born to Play (2005); Jonathon Gatehouse, “How the Canadian women’s hockey team came to dominate the world,” Maclean’s Magazine (March 3, 2006);Andrew Podnieks, ed., IIHF Guide and Record Book 2013 (2012).

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