Kingston, Ont., is known for producing some incredible hockey talents,
including one of the best to ever lace up her skates with Canada’s National
Women’s Team—Jayna Hefford.
Four Olympic gold medals (five medals in all). Seven gold medals at the
IIHF Women’s World Championship. The second-most goals, third-most assists
and second-most points in Team Canada history. And a 2018 inductee into the
Hockey Hall of Fame.
On Sunday night in her hometown comes another honour. In recognition of all
she’s done and continues to do for the game, Hefford’s Greater Kingston
Girls Hockey Association (GKGHA) jersey will be raised to the rafters of
the Leon’s Centre prior to the Rivalry Series game between Canada and the
Hefford started her hockey career at six years old before making the move
to the women’s game at 10 and playing with the Kingston Kodiaks (now the
Greater Kingston Ice Wolves) through to her university career with the
University of Toronto.
“I always felt like it was a really supportive community,” says Hefford,
who was also a 2019 Distinguished Honouree of the Order of Hockey in
Canada. “And thankfully I grew up in a family that encouraged me to follow
my dreams. They could tell how much I loved the game.”
Now—having cemented her place in Canadian hockey history—Hefford has turned
her attention to the growth of the game for the next generation.
Along with her hockey school in Kingston and the skill camps she runs in
communities across Canada, Hefford is the operations consultant for the
Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA), helping the
organization work towards its goal to provide a viable professional hockey
league for women.
“She's always giving back to the community by coming back,” says Jonathan
Walker, president of the GKGHA. “She's hosted hockey camps through the
summer and those things are loved by our members and they're heavily
“Having someone like that, that can come back, [bringing] national team
players with her and just the sheer visibility of women who have excelled
in the sport and giving back to our young athletes has always been a great
benefit to us.”
The Ice Wolves have seen registration growth in recent years, increasing
their membership from 695 in the 2019-20 season to 755 in 2021-22 with the
return to hockey.
Kingston will welcome the best of the women’s game once again on Sunday
night, playing host to the first Canadian stop of the Rivalry Series.
“Hosting [games like this] in our community is a real honour,” Walker says.
“For us to get exposure and to be able to see these high-level athletes is
really exceptional for our community and for our girls to witness.”
An eager Kingston hockey community jumped at the opportunity to watch
Canada’s National Women’s Team compete live, with the game selling out in
just a matter of days.
“[That] made me really proud to see that,” Hefford says. “Kingston's a big
hockey community, but the way they're supporting the women's game is
really, really incredible. I'm so excited for the players to be able to
play in a place like this.”
Hefford will be the first women’s hockey player to have her jersey honoured
in Kingston, joining eight men who played for the Kingston Frontenacs of
the Ontario Hockey League – Chris Clifford, Keli Corpse, David Ling, Ken
Linseman, Tony McKegney, Mike O’Connell, Brad Rhiness and Mike Zigomanis.
“I hope it's a signal to every young girl and boy in that community that if
you're passionate about something and you work hard for it anything's
possible,” Hefford says of the honour.
“When [I was] growing up, you never would have seen a female hockey player
celebrated like this in the community. It just wasn't something that girls
did. Now I think it'll be a powerful thing for young girls to see.”
Watch the Jayna Hefford ceremony and the Rivalry Series game on Sunday
at 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT on TSN.