National Women’s Team captain Hayley Wickenhesier has received one of Canada’s highest civilian honours.
The three-time Olympic gold medallist and six-time world champion is among 50 new appointments to the Order of Canada, the federal government announced Thursday.
Wickenheiser has been named an officer of the Order of Canada “for her achievements as an athlete and for her contributions to the growth of women’s hockey,” according to a news release issued from the office of the Governor General of Canada, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston.
The Order of Canada is described as “the centerpiece of the Canadian Honours System, and recognizes a lifetime of outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation.”
Wickenheiser is currently in Ghana, West Africa with international humanitarian and development agency Right to Play to get a firsthand glance of how the organization’s programs are impacting communities and “using the power of sport and play to improve the lives of children.”
Wickenheiser has been an athlete ambassador with Right to Play for eleven years, making her first trip into the field with the organization in 2007, when she visited Rwanda in east Africa.
“I want to thank all of you for your support,” Wickenheiser said in a video message from Accra, Ghana. “I’m very honoured to also receive the Order of Canada, and thank organizations like Right to Play, that have given me the chance to work with them.”
Since first lacing up her skates with Canada’s National Women’s Team in 1994, when she became the youngest female player to pull on a red and white jersey, Wickenheiser has been a leader both on and off the ice.
The Shaunavon, Sask., native, has served as captain of Team Canada on several occasions, most recently at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, B.C., and the 2011 IIHF World Women’s Championship in Winterthur and Zurich, Switzerland.
Wickenheiser, 32, is also an outspoken advocate of growing women’s hockey around the world, and has taken on a key role with the new IIHF Ambassador and Mentor Program (AMP), which will create partnerships between some of the top countries, coaches and players, and nations that are striving to join the sport’s global elite.
“Hayley continues to make us proud, day in and day out,” Hockey Canada president and CEO Bob Nicholson said. “Whether she’s on the ice captaining Canada to Olympic gold, or off the ice giving back to communities both at home and abroad, she truly exemplifies what it means to be a mentor, role model and hero.”
Wickenheiser’s past recognitions include being named one of the QMI Agency’s Top 10 Greatest Female Athletes in the History of Sports, being named one of Sports Illustrated’s Top 20 Toughest Athletes, receiving the Bobbie Rosenfield Award recognizing Canada’s best female athlete from The Canadian Press, and twice being among the Globe and Mail’s Power 50 influencers in sport. She has also received the Bruce Kidd Award for athletic leadership at the Canadian Sports Awards, is a two-time finalist for the Women’s Sports Foundation Team Athlete of the Year and is also involved with groups such as Clean Air Champions, Dreams Take Flight, KidSport and Spread the Net.