She is not the apple of our eye – she is the whole orchard.
Calling her Wonder Woman is not improper, because on Hayley Wickenheiser the nickname is not a fantasy, it’s a fact.
Her crop of human achievement is dizzying: the best female hockey player in the world who ever existed (and probably ever will be), her frantic but staunch med school juggling with parenthood and professional hockey (none of the big under that guys get) and his work in the athlete-dominated NHL as the senior director of player development for the legendary Toronto Maple Leafs organization – between medical school and full-time practice in Calgary.
If life was a game, Hayley Wickenheiser, MD, would be the three stars.
On the planks, unlike many notable sports accounts, was written by Wickenheiser herself. And, like pretty much everything else – as a motivational speaker, as an investor, as a multiple business owner – she’s pretty good at it.
As she explains, back in rural Saskatchewan on the farm, it was the winter of 1985, she was six years old and it was past midnight and 8pm. Her father couldn’t sleep and heard a strange knocking sound. What he found was young Hayley outside, practicing shooting in the dark. He sent her off to bed.
From that point on, when she slipped into the dark, she practiced the silent parts of her game. The child born in 1978 became a star for 23 years on our National Women’s Hockey Team, winning four medals. Olympic gold and seven world championships. She retired as a player in 2017.
Wickenheiser, now 43, says she wrote On the planks because her stint in hockey – she was the first woman other than a professional goaltender – taught her lessons and strategies that she could apply, and did, on the ice . But, more importantly, she’s found that she can apply these same tactics and approaches in anything she does. And she believes that anyone can use these techniques to be successful.
From a young age, as she rose through the hockey ranks, she was loudly cursed from the stands by mothers (she calls them “gender police”) for taking a place on the boys’ teams. ‘they legitimately believed they were a boy. It became so toxic that she developed an ulcer when she was 15 years old.
In On the planks, Wickenheiser organizes his life lessons into three zones, just like in hockey. Its defensive zone covers the acquisition of a solid foundation for living and reliable systems. The neutral zone is about learning to get comfortable by being uncomfortable. The offensive zone is how you capitalize on what you have learned. Hers is a self-programmed life for success.
Growing up, girls didn’t play hockey, and certainly not on boys’ teams. She had to change her equipment in the boiler rooms and in one case when she attended elite hockey school in Regina at the age of 10 she had to sleep in a broom closet down the hall of the boys’ dormitory.
Much later, playing pro in a Finnish men’s league, a player wanted to tell her that she was not wanted by breaking her nose.
When she was a teenager playing midget AAA hockey in Alberta, the team came back from a winning road trip and the coach called her into his office. Wickenheiser recounts what he said: âYou’re a great hockey player, but I’m going to have to let you go. I can’t bear to have a girl on the team.
A few months later, the same coach was to see her play at age 15 on Canada’s national team at the 1994 world championships in Lake Placid, NY. His roommate, Margot Page, taught high school math, while Wickenheiser, by far the youngest on the ice, studied it at school. The team named her “Haute-Chair Hayley”.
Wickenheiser says the old-fashioned bullying, punishment and berating of players by coaches is toxic. But things are changing for the better, she says.
âI’m trying to be part of the change I want to see in the game,â she writes. âWhen I see a player in the Leafs organization in trouble, instead of yelling at him, I ask him what’s going onâ¦ I try to understand what prompts him to bring negative energy into the game. room or on ice. We have these conversations in private. ”
It ties in with one of Wickenheiser’s life lessons: empathy âmakes you a better leader and a better personâ.
And so, in his case, hockey.
Barry Craig is a retired journalist.