A female ice hockey and baseball player, two-time winter Olympian (ice hockey) and also a summer Olympian at the Sydney summer games (in women's baseball). An impact player in hockey with extraordinary vision and sound hockey sense, she has been called by some the best women's hockey player in the world. She is the cousin of Doug Wickenheiser, a former top pick of the Montreal Canadiens.
Hayley is the premiere player on Canada's national women's hockey team, wearing jersey #22. In Salt Lake City, the team captured the Olympic gold medal by defeating their arch-rivals, Team USA, 3-2. This victory avenged the previous Olympic meeting of the two teams in Nagano, which was won by Team USA. Hayley was an assistant captain of the 2002 team, and was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament with seven goals and three assists for 10 points in five games. Hayley ranked No. 1 in goals and total points throughout the Olympic tournament.
In between Olympic years, there are not many games of women's hockey played at the elite level. A natural forward, Hayley has been playing defense for the Edmonton Chimos of the National Women's Hockey League because nobody else in the league can keep up with her on offence.
Over the last year, Hayley has been looking for opportunities in men's hockey, looking for a higher level of competition that will let her develop her game at the next level. She has considered opportunities in North America, but prefers the European leagues, where the emphasis is more on skill and skating, and less on physical play.
In January 2003, Hayley was taken on as a 'tryout player' for the second-division Finnish men's team Salamat ('The Lightning') of Kirkkonummi, west of Helsinki. Hayley participated in four practices, and did well. She then played in 3 "tryout" games, starting January 11th 2003, earning one assist.
On January 20th Hayley officially signed with the Lightning, the top team in the Suomi League. Hayley will play forward on the team's third line. Her jersey number is her regular #22. The team, part-owned by Finnish NHL star Teemu Selanne, is trying to win promotion to the Finnish first division, the Mestis League.
One question that is constantly asked is how she will handle the more physical play of men's leagues. In women's hockey body checking is a penalty (though it does occur, as anyone who watched the Nagano or Salt Lake finals knows!)
Wickenheiser last played full-contact hockey against men at age 17. She attended the Philadelphia Flyers rookie camps in 1998 and 1999. So far she has stood up well to the physical play.
Hayley was also offered a 15-game tryout with the Cincinnati Cyclones of the East Coast Hockey League by team minority owner Phil Esposito, although terms were not finalized. Hayley decided the style of play in the ECHL did not suit her. "It's a desperate league, full of guys trying to make it [to the NHL]" Wickenheiser said, "It's a North American style of hockey and I don't know if it's a style I'm capable of playing."
Hayley played as an outfielder/utility player on the 2000 Canadian National Softball Team. Only a few athletes of either sex have participated in both the summer and winter Olympic Games.
Hayley is also involved with a commercial line of women's hockey equipment, along with former Olympic teammate Manon Rheaume.
Update: July 2003
After playing 23 games for Salamat in 2002, Hayley has returned to the team for 2003 tryouts. The team has moved up a rung to the Mestis League. Hayley will work out with the team in training camp, and see if they offer her a contract.
Update: November 2003
After a 10-game stint as Salamat's fourth-line center in the fall of 2003, Hayley ended her contract with the team and returned home in November. She hinted that she felt the coach did not have confidence in her skills, and that she wasn't getting enough ice time. She had 0 points, 2 PIM, and a +/- of 0 in those 10 games.
Update: February 2006
Hayley scored the winning goal in the final game of the 2004 Women's Worlds in Halifax, Nova Scotia and was named MVP.
A children's book about her (Hayley Wickenheiser: Born To Play) was published in 2005. Once again Hayley joined the Canadian women's hockey team at the 2006 Winter Olympics.