photo: Hockey Canada
photo: Hockey Canada
photo: Hockey Canada
Heather McIntyre

canada

Hayley Wickenheiser

Interview with Hayley via email with Elizabeth Etue, Sept. 2, 2011 on her involvement with Ambassador Mentor program launched by IIHF and her  plans for 2011 onward.

(http://www.iihf.com/iihf-home/sport/women/ambassadors.html)

HW: My role is coordinator of the AMP program so I am the go between the mentors and the IIHF addressing any issues that arise and keeping the program running.

EE: IS it too early to tell or do you have some feedback from players/coaches ?
HW: It is still too early to tell, but by all accounts it was a great success at the Slovakia summer camp, many nations have set up Facebook communication with their mentors and the athletes are very excited to have the expertise to tap into.

EE: What else needs to be done in your opinion to help the 5-14 countries trying to improve?
HW: More international competitions for these countries, more dollars invested by federations into the programs, better training and fitness and overall skill level improvement from these nations and an increase in social equality for women in many of these countries as so much of the problems lie in social issues as well.

EE: Fans are wondering why you didn’t play in the 12 Nations.
HW: I chose not to go to the event because my son Noah started school and going into Grade 6, I wanted to be around as he got ready as it’s an important time. I missed playing, but it was the right decision and the only tournament I have voluntarily missed in my 18 year career.

EE: have you decided which team you will play for next year given the Edmonton is now in CWHL?
HW: I will be returning to the University of Calgary Dinos to play for coach, Danielle Goyette, which I am really excited about!

EE: Is your international hockey festival happening again this year?
HW: Yes, it is a go and will be bigger and better than last year with over 1000 players from around the world competing. Russia, Czech Republic, Oregon, and Massachusetts as well as teams from all over Canada just to name a few. The dates are Nov. 17-21 in Burnaby BC and all details can be found at www.wickfest.com

EE: What are your plans for 2011/12 season with worlds coming up?
HW: Plans are to have a great season with the Calgary Dinos, try to make it to CIS (Cdn Interuniversity Sport) Nationals and compete with the national team at all events this season and leading into the 2014 games, which I plan to play in.

EE: What off ice activities are in store for you in 2011/12 season? You are always quite busy?
HW: We are busy with a very big project that we will launch at our festival in November which will give female hockey players great insight and more access to the game. I am very excited about it! We are also heavily involved in many charities and fundraisers across the country, writing some articles for publications like Hockey Now and Huffington Post and I do a lot of public speaking as well as other business initiatives.

EE: Lastly what is the progress on your medical degree? Are you still on track with that? When will you graduate?
HW: I will graduate next year and still plan to apply to medical school and will make a decision on whether I will attend after the 2014 Olympics. I enjoy being a student athlete, it is a positive distraction for me.

EE: IT must be tough balancing hockey training and competing, studies, being a mom and sponsor work? How do you manage that now versus when you were younger?
HW: Well, I do get quite a few requests and 'asks' now and I am fortunate to have one of my very good friends who works with me Ceilidh Price to help me handle things, as I cannot do it all on my own anymore. I find my priorities are family, hockey and then school (a close second but I can't say honestly that its second lol) and my business and off ice initiatives. I don’t have time for much else but try to inject a little fun stuff in there when I can!!

“Luctor & Emergo” ...Team Canada Resilience

Q/A with Elizabeth Etue  |  Jan 14th 2010

Q. What will you do differently in February since this is your first gig as an Olympic Captain?

A. It is my first time as an Olympic Captain. It is an honour to represent Canada in Canada. For me, it is not really all that different, how I carry myself. I am not an overly verbal person. For most part I demonstrate my leadership in day to day actions. I think that is the best way to help team. I am also talking privately to players but also it is important to let people experience it themselves.

Q. Won’t there be times when you will have to step it up as the Captain?

A. There are always defining moments, positive or negative. I will have to feel out the situation. We, (myself and alternate captains Jayna Hefford and Carolyn Ouellette) communicate a lot, in terms of what we want to see happen with the team. It is a group approach in our dressing room.

Q. Is the intensity with the USA ratcheted up another notch?

A. I always see it as being high. Always intense and especially playing in Canada. The games are so close. For our game on Jan 1, 2010 (Canada won in a shoot-out 3-2) no one wanted to give an inch especially for the last game. We wanted to leave a lasting impression going to Olympics.

Q. How is the team different since the loss at the world championship in April 2009?

A. Canada has improved since the last world tournament. Confidance is high now, I like how we have played and we have won all our games vs the USA.

Q. How will you beat the US?

A. Well, there is huge pressure because it is home ice. The US rivalry is always discussed and it is much more intense this year. We play a cat and mouse game especially with specialty teams. We change; they adjust and visa versa. I think for sure, the game is so analyzed and over coached. There are no secrets. It is about executing when it matters the most.

Our edge is that we are going to be the most prepared team, especially given the number of games we will have played (30 games vs Midget boys teams and 26 other games including 6 vs USA) since centralization in August. No stone has been left unturned. We are absolutely ready. We will deliver our best performance on whatever day it is needed. The only thing we can guarantee is that we are going to rise to the occasion.

Q. What about fatigue?

A. Fatigue won’t be a factor. As of January 16, 2010 the bulk of our games are finished. We will taper down and be sharp. The Games will be the easiest part; we play 5 games over 10 days, it’s fairly simple.

Q. What do the seven young players who are playing in their first Olympics contribute?

A. They bring speed and attitude; no fear and in your face. They have played in Under 22 and Under 18 tournaments so they are not just getting thrown into the fire, they have experience in international competition. They are also respectful of the veterans and bring huge energy and enthusiasm.

Q. What are you doing to bond as a team?

A. Our team bonding is very much there, but not as well publicized as it used to be. When you are centralized, there isn’t a lot of extra work that is needed when you see each other almost every day. Somebody is always doing something and it is a variety of things. Someone will play a song in the dressing room. We had t-shirts made with the words “struggle and emerge” in Latin, “Luctor and Emergo.” It means rise up from adversity, be resilient or on the other side of tired there is a lot of good.

Q. Are you training any differently?

A. I am managing my energy, making sure I get enough rest. Each day I am on the ice, I make it count. In Canada people are always asking how you are. Family support is key, the team is on road on a lot. My parents, grandfather and brother and sister will be a the Olympics. My son Noah for the first time really wants to go, I think he wants to see the mascot. It is an extra shot of energy to have them there.

Q. What can fans do to help team?

A. Emailing support, getting wishes out and things like wearing our jerseys and encouraging friends to watch the games. We had really great support at our midget boys games. We played to sold out arenas.
 
Off-ice Goals: Wickenheiser
looks at the Future

by Meg Hewings  |  November 2009

Hayley Wickenheiser has lived the hockey dream in this cold-forsaken country. The teen phenom from small-town Saskatchewan  made the men’s pro leagues, won  2 Olympic gold medals and even muscled her way onto Sports Illustrated’s list of the top 25 toughest athletes. Her hockey poster is plastered on bedroom walls all over the world.  These days, this makes the hockey star’s off-ice activities as note-worthy  as her on-ice feats.

“Today, we Canadians lead the world in hockey and are the best at what we do but this also comes with a responsibility to develop and grow the game internationally,” says Wickenheiser. She is putting these words into action for 2010 by hosting the inaugural Wickenheiser International Women’s Hockey Festival in beautiful Burnaby BC, April 1-4th. The aim is a world-class competition that features 32 teams from around the world and “showcases and celebrates the best of the best.” Players (Peewee, Bantam, Midget, Junior and Senior divisions) are guaranteed 4 games each.

“This event is about hockey but also everything around it. We’ll focus on the mind, body and soul of hockey and want participants to leave a better, holistic player,” says Wickenheiser, who dubbed her tourney a “festival,” to get at the spirit of hockey she wants to cultivate.

With a host of off-ice activities and plenty of on-ice play, the fest includes sessions on everything from nutrition and training, to schools, scholarships and scouting. There’s even an informal Q&A with her parents about their experience guiding Hayley from minor boys hockey star to Olympian and globetrotting pro hockey player.

Wickenheiser also plans to use her advocacy skills and business acumen – two competencies she attributes to hockey – to secure the necessary sponsorship dollars to help teams from other countries offset travel and accommodation costs. “I would love to see 5-6 teams come over from other countries, and be a part of this tournament,” says Wickenheiser. So far, she’s made the callout to countries that have existing girls hockey infrastructure, like in Sweden, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, Russian and the Czech Republic. Proceeds from the tournament will go to her long-time charity, Right To Play as well as Kids Sports, a local Canadian organization that supply less fortunate kids with sports equipment and activities. For more details see: www.wickhockey.com

Wickenheiser hopes to give girls and their parents a chance to participate in shaping the game’s future. “We have a great opportunity coming out of the Olympic games in Vancouver  to rally together as a women’s hockey community.”

Wickenheiser played minor boys hockey until she was 13, and admits she might not have gone to play pro hockey with Finland’s HC Salaam in 2003, had there been a women’s pro league of stature in existence at the time. Pursuing her hockey dreams across the ocean from her boyfriend, son and allies in the women’s game, wasn’t easy.

“We need the continued formation of solid elite leagues or a professional women’s hockey league and more opportunities for women to make dollars in the game,” says Wickenheiser, who has played in the Western Women's Hockey League with the Calgary Oval X-Treme since the inaugural 2004-05 season.

“Often criticized for lacking entertainment value (“it’s not real hockey if there’s no fighting”), women’s senior elite hockey, as well as women’s international competition generally, is improving and the play increasingly thrilling,” insists Wickenheiser. If you put women’s hockey in context, she argues, “[the game] is growing faster than the men’s game did early on, especially the improvements in the level of  competition internationally.”

Wickenheiser hopes a synergetic relationship will continue to evolve between the women’s senior elite leagues and the girl’s grassroots game, so that the next generation has places to play elite-level hockey at a variety of levels.

“We need the NHL to help promote and grow the women’s game but at the same time, [we have] an opportunity in the women’s game to look at the mistakes the NHL has made as a business model over the years, and to not make them when growing a pro women’s league.”

Since the 1998 Olympics, women’s international hockey and its top leagues adopted international hockey rules, which ban body checking, fighting and mid-ice hits. “The women’s game is different than the men’s game – than the NHL. I think it’s providing an opportunity for girls to play in an environment that’s not focused on fighting and enforcers. In the women’s game, we don’t need to rely on sheer brute force or fighting, so the emphasis is on speed and skill.”

While Wickenheiser knows it will take work to convince people women’s hockey rules and values aren’t merely a lesser, “fairer-sex” version of the game,  she keeps busy championing the qualities of the sport that made her: “Sport is a vehicle for building confidence and self-esteem and learning how to be a part of a group.”

At only 31 years of age, gumption has defined Wickenheiser’s on and off-ice career to date, but what does she want in future? “I’ll stay in the game post-Olympics, but I don’t know how much longer I’ll play. I’ll probably take it year by year after that. I’d like to be involved in the game, maybe at the management level but I’ll see what opportunities come my way.”

If history dictates, Wickenheiser will shatter whatever  glass ceilings she bumps up against. She’s also confident about the future of the game. “Hockey is still a pretty male-dominated game and you deal with old-school types. But they don’t last long anymore. There are opportunities for women to pursue higher level careers in hockey, and not just on the women’s side.”

Take former Team Canada captain Cassie Campbell for example. She became the first-ever female to do the colour commentary on Hockey Night in Canada. And last year, long-time Team Canada goaltender Sami Jo Small co-founded the Canadian Women’s Hockey League after owners pulled out of the NWHL leaving players with  no place to play. The non-profit, player-run league is an exciting new model for sport, and currently funded by partners and sponsors. The hope is it will someday go pro.

“[Barriers] are slowly breaking down. Hockey’s dinosaurs are becoming… extinct,” she laughs. “The great lesson of hockey is that [team- and league-building takes] time and open-mindedness. This bodes well for the women’s game.”