“Hockey was my passion, I think it was what I was born to do.”
Hayley Wickenheiser captivated Crescent School students as she described the dedication and grueling training it took to become Canada’s greatest female hockey player. She spoke at a full-school assembly on October 8, 2019.
Being the only little girl who played hockey in her hometown of Shaunavon, Saskatchewan was hard, Wickenheiser said, even with the support of her family and coaches. She said she “faced a lot of abuse from people who didn’t think girls should play hockey” and had to change in bathrooms and boiler rooms because the arenas only had locker rooms for boys.
But Wickenheiser didn’t give up. She was 13 when it was announced that women’s hockey would be a Olympic medal sport. Playing in the Olympics became her goal. As she described it to the students, achieving that goal, and all the successes that followed, depended on the “daily grind” of drills and practices.
“The big things are won in the moments when no one is watching,” she said.
When Wickenheiser retired from professional hockey in 2017, she had four Olympic gold medals and one Olympic silver medal, plus numerous world championship victories. She was the first woman to score a goal while playing for a men’s professional team. She holds the record for the most assists, points and goals for the Canadian Women’s National team.
Now Wickenheiser is following her second passion: becoming a doctor. That didn’t come easily either – she had to apply twice before she was accepted to medical school at the University of Calgary. “In hockey, I did something that I was the best in the world at,” she said. “But in medicine, I’m doing something that is best for the world.”
She hasn’t left hockey entirely. In addition to studying medicine, she is the Assistant Director of Player Development with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Her Canadian Tire Wickenheiser World Female Hockey Festival is now in its 10th year. She also serves on the IOC Athletes Commission and is the Vice Chair of the Calgary 2026 Olympic Bid Committee.
“Everything I have in my life is because of hockey, because as a little girl I had a dream” said Wickenheiser, crediting the support her parents gave her as she pursued her calling.
Wickenheiser wrapped up her visit by encouraging the students to remember three things:
- Be grateful for what you have.
- You do the work when no one is watching so that you can enjoy the moments when everyone is watching.
- Pressure is a privilege. You don’t feel pressure if you don’t have people supporting you and expecting you to do your best.
Wickenheiser’s visit was made possible by the Leadership in Sports Endowment, in memory of John Stransman P’03, ’05, which supports sportsmanship, leadership and good coaching practices at Crescent. We were pleased to have members of the Stransman family – Lindsay Stransman, Steve Stransman ’03, Peter Stransman ’05 and Anne Rogers – at the assembly with Wickenheiser. Thank you to the Stransman family for this generous contribution to Crescent boys’ education.