By Heather McIntyre November 2009
Jayna Hefford fits nicely in the middle of what you could call a youth movement.
Younger players like netminder Shannon Szabados (23), Catherine Ward (22), Meghan Agosta (22), and Marie-Philip Poulin (18) are making a name for themselves on the Team Canada roster and while it’s not exactly out with the old and in with the new, veterans like Hefford have taken notice.
“The game has changed dramatically since I’ve been here,” said Hefford, a 32-year-old veteran who is headed for her fourth Olympic Games in February 2010. “The game is faster and the players are bigger & stronger.”
Hefford has a hugely successful international career. She is second in games played for the national team behind Hayley Wickenheiser. She is also third in scoring, having netted 116 goals and 209 points in her 195 games as of November 09.
A native of Kingston, ON, Hefford began playing at age 7 with a boys team for 3 She was named Rookie of the Year at the University of Toronto while working on her undergrad in Physical Education. A member of the Brampton Canadette Thunder in Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) since 1998, she set a new CWHL scoring record with a five-point performance in an 11-3 win over the Ottawa Senators in February 2009
While Hefford does her fair share on the score sheet, her name is now flanked by the likes of Agosta and Poulin – names that Canadian hockey fans are becoming more familiar with. The young players on Canada’s roster paid their dues on the international stage in Under 18 and Under 22 tournaments and are now ready to make the jump to the Big Show. In exhibition action at the Four Nations Cup (held Nov. 3 to 7 in Sweden), Hefford notched her first point of the tournament with an assist on a power play goal by Poulin. The other assist went to Agosta. “It forces us, as veterans, to continue to get better,”said Hefford.
Hefford is probably best known for her integral role in the 2002 Olympic in Salt Lake City. Many Canadian hockey fans remember the gold medal win on the turf of their No. 1 rivals – the United States. Hefford scored the game-winning goal in the final game with one second left in the second period.
She has been a member of the national team since the 1996-97 season, playing in the 1998, 2002 and 2006 Olympic Games and nine world championships. She is one of only three Canadians to have scored more than 100 international goals and set a record for most points in a game with three goals and four assists in 2006.
Hefford made the team again not simply because of her experience, but because of her consistency and talent on the ice. “You can’t sit back and think that because you’ve been here, that is good enough to keep you on the team,” she said. “Young players want spots.”