International Ice Hockey Federation

WW Top 25 Stories: #8

WW Top 25 Stories: #8

15-year-old Wickenheiser makes her debut

Published 27.03.2015 19:29 GMT+1 | Author Andrew Podnieks
WW Top 25 Stories: #8
A young Hayley Wickenheiser some months before the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano. Photo: Rich Frishman / Sports Illustrated / Getty Images
11 April 1994. Two decades ago, the name Wickenheiser meant only one thing in hockey, Doug.

He was the first overall draft choice by the Montreal Canadiens in 1980 and was by anyone’s standards a bust. On that draft day, he had a cousin who was a year-and-a-half old named Hayley, who lived in Shaunavon, Saskatchewan.

Hayley started to play hockey at a young age and loved it. She was also exceptionally good at it. She played in boy’s leagues, and in 1994, at age 15, she made Canada’s national team for that year’s Women’s World Championships in Lake Placid.

Hayley played in the first game of the tournament, an easy 7-1 win over China, and two more games, recording one assist as the team won gold. By the time the next Women’s Worlds was held three years later, in 1997, she was pretty much the best female player in the world.

“Wick” was unlike any woman who had come before her. She trained intensely and developed strength that was well beyond the measure of any other female player. Her shot was the best any female goalie ever faced. Her stride was powerful, her tenacity intimidating, her moves lightning fast. She could score from the blue line with a shot or by deking through several opponents on the way to the net. She had eyes seemingly in the back of her head, such was the brilliance of her passing.

In 1998 and 1999, Philadelphia Flyers general manager Bobby Clarke invited her to participate in the team’s rookie training camps each September. Always looking to improve, Wickenheiser played in a third-tier men’s pro league in Finland, becoming the first women to score a goal.

Continue reading

She had a goal and three assists in 12 games in 2003/04 when the team earned promotion and played briefly the following year in the second-tier league in Finland. In 2008/09, she also played for a third-tier team in Sweden for 23 games, scoring another goal.

But it was her play with the national team that was her forte and established her reputation. She has played in every major event since 1994, except 2001 (because of a knee injury) and the upcoming 2015 tournament (because of foot surgery). She is the all-time leader at the Olympics in goals, assists, and points, and the all-time leader in Women’s World Championships in assists and points.

Wickenheiser is the only two-time Olympics MVP (2002, 2006) and has been named to the Women’s Worlds All-Star team a record six times. She has won a combined eleven gold medals and six silver medals and is certainly going to be inducted into both the IIHF Hall of Fame and Hockey Hall of Fame as soon as she becomes eligible.

Most of all, though, Wickenheiser was arguably the first female player to adopt the life of a true professional. Her desire to improve, to train at the highest level, and to make hockey a way of life was pioneering for teammates and opponents alike.

Captain, leader, and team player, she dominated women’s hockey for two decades, and in the twilight of her career, no signs of retirement in sight, she continues to inspire.

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of women's hockey in the IIHF, writer Andrew Podnieks is counting down the top 25 stories in women's international hockey history. One story each day will appear until the Number 1 story is unveiled the morning of the gold-medal game of the 2015 Women's Worlds in Malmo, Sweden, on April 4.

Earlier Top 25 Stories:
#9: USA finally wins WW gold in 2005
#10: Lightning strikes for Manon of the crease
#11: 15-year-old Martin leads Sweden to bronze
#12: Angela James cut prior to Nagano
#13: Amanda Kessel misses 2014/15 with concussion
#14: IIHF removes body-checking from women’s hockey
#15: Jenni Hiirikoski becomes first Euro two-timer
#16: Former NHLer Yashin leads Russian women to bronze
#17: Cammi Granato cut before Turin
#18: Visitors win twice in North American finals
#19: IIHF makes Women’s Worlds official for 1990
#20: Rogge issues challenge to women’s hockey
#21: IIHF goes to all-women officials
#22: Shannon Miller recruits Euros for NCAA
#23: IIHF introduces junior event for women
#24: Zorn a goalie and skater both
#25: Russia-Switzerland a dandy display in 2011


Back to Overview