Hayley Wickenheiser’s list of accomplishments just keeps getting longer. On Tuesday, the 28-year-old forward from Shaunavon, Saskatchewan scored four points versus Switzerland to become the first player in Canadian women’s hockey history to hit the 250-point plateau with the national team. All in all, she’s won 18 gold medals in IIHF and unofficial competitions while wearing the red Maple Leaf. As the 2006 Olympic MVP and Best Forward, it’s no wonder she’s often dubbed the world’s best female hockey player.
Wickenheiser sat down with HockeyCanada.ca after the host country’s April 4 practice to answer questions submitted by fans from across Canada and around the world.
I LOVE watching you play hockey. My daughter is 10 years old, and she has a picture of you in her room. She plays hockey too, and because you’re her favourite hockey player, she wants to know who YOUR favourite hockey player is.
“My favourite player of all time is [Mark] Messier, along with Wayne Gretzky. I loved their style and I loved how [Messier] was a complete player on both sides of the puck, great shot, and always thinking for the big game.”
Who are some of your favourite opposing players to play against?
“I think things riled up with the US. To look at Ruggiero, Darwitz, Potter, Wendell--some of their better players are fun. And we’ve had some good battles with the Swedes over the years too. Kim Martin with the Swedes is always a fun goalie to play against.”
Seeing how men have contact (bodychecking) in their game and they generally play against men, what do you think about women having contact in their game? After all, it is women versus women.
“Yes, I think it could be an interesting part of the game. Just in particular for the officiating, it could make things more clear-cut. I think we’ve still got a big discrepancy between the countries so it might make it an even further, bigger blowout. Yes, I’d like to see it at the same time.”
Do you believe we’ll ever see a hockey version of the WNBA?
“I do someday. I don’t know when.”
How soon do you think we'll see a woman playing in the NHL? Will it be you? Who might it be?
“I don’t think we ever will. It won’t be me, and I think that we would like our own NHL. I think the WHL [Women’s Hockey League] would be the right way to go. Someday that’s what we should inspire to having.”
What was the best part about playing in Finland?
“Just the challenge of taking my game to another level and keeping my head up and staying out of the corners.”
What are some good training things I can do at home to get faster, stronger, etc.?
Windsor, Nova Scotia
“Foot work drills, I think, can take the ability up, and agility drills. Also focusing on strength training, particularly doing things on one leg and in an unbalanced position, which is what you are in hockey a lot.”
What do you spend your free time doing? I'm sure you don't get much “free time” these days, but what would you like to do?
“I mostly spend my free time with my son Noah and we’re either at the swimming pool, the cathedral, or the park. I also enjoy mountain biking, camping, and things like that.”
Excluding Canada's jersey, what country at the World Women’s Championship has the most attractive jersey? Personally, I think the Chinese jersey looks great, but my friend likes the German jersey more. If you say the Chinese jersey, it'll help me win a bet, but no pressure!
“OK, Chinese jersey!”
It’s a simple question: who is your all-time favorite Hockey Canada PR guy: Sean Kelso, Andre Brin, or JJ Hebert? (Ha ha--good luck in Winnipeg!)
Media Relations, Calgary Flames
“J.J. and Andre are tied for first!”
Is golf as popular among female hockey players as it is among male ones?
“Yeah, I think it is, actually. A lot of the girls on our team are big golfers and like to golf. We have a golf tournament every year called ‘Good as Gold’ in the Muskokas in Ontario.”
Where do you envision the international women’s game to be in the next 10 years? Do you think it will be more competitive? Besides the “Top Four,” which nations do you think have the most potential?
“I think it will be more competitive each year as it grows, as the younger players get a chance to develop, and more money gets into some of the countries that need it. I think that if the Russians ever had a full-time training base like they did in the 80’s and the 70’s, they would be very good, outside of Sweden and Finland. I think China also, just with their sporting background.”