By Daniel Pagan
Hayley Wickenheiser, one of Canada’s most talented and successful Olympic hockey players, is bringing her talents to the University of Calgary. Last Wednesday, Dinos Athletics called a news conference to announce that Wickenheiser will be joining the U of C Dinos women’s hockey team.
Considered by many to be the greatest female hockey player in the world, the 32-year-old helped the Canadian women’s team win a gold medal in Vancouver last February. She also collected three Olympic golds and one silver medal throughout her hockey career. She previously played for Calgary Oval X-treme club in the Western Women’s Hockey League, professional men’s hockey overseas in Europe and happens to top Canada’s all-time Olympic scoring list. In addition to the Dinos, Wickenheiser is still playing for the Canadian national team as its captain.
Dinos coach Danielle Goyette said the Dinos are looking forward to having Wickenheiser playing on the team with her experience and energy.
“What she is going to bring to the team is to show the girls how hard you have to work to be the best player in the world,” said Goyette. “To have the chance for the players to play with her every day and to see how hard she has to work, it’s going to help our team to get better and bring it to the next level.”
Wickenheiser said she came to the Dinos because of her old friendship with Goyette and can count on Goyette’s coaching. Goyette was her former Team Canada teammate in Nagano, Salt Lake City and Turin.
“We played together for so many years. I knew her as an athlete and just her preparation level,” said Wickenheiser.
Wickenheiser said she was convinced to play in Calgary by the professional nature of the Dinos program.
“It’s a young inexperienced team, but the challenge is to make it a new team and to win with it,” said Wickenheiser. “My goal this year is to make a good hockey team and its something I am looking forward to.”
She explained that her role is to try and help grow and develop women’s hockey by being a role model and mentor for other players.
“I’ll have that opportunity here with this program and CIS and then, at the same time, be able to practice a little bit with the men’s team,” said Wickenheiser.
Wickenheiser explained how the U of C is a perfect fit for her because of the Dinos, their location and her ability to complete a degree in Kinesiology.
“I knew I was going to go back to school after Vancouver and maybe someday pursue medicine,” said Wickenheiser.
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“Doing it here at the U of C and being able to train right here at the oval where I’ve trained for so many years, it was just a good fit for me overall.”
Wickenheiser is eligible to play in Canadian Interuniversity Sport hockey because she is a full-time student and unlike men’s hockey, years spent playing professionally do not count towards CIS eligibility.
“Its going to be different, 10 years away from school, but finishing the degree is something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Wickenheiser is looking forward to practicing her leadership skills with the Dinos.
“These girls are young and they are very youthful and energentic,” said Wickenheiser. “I think its just going to give me something that I am really looking forward to and need after a very hard Olympics here.”
Wickenheiser is playing with eight other Dinos recruits. She will make her Dinos debut in a two-game series against Regina on Oct. 8-9.