Hayley Wickenheiser, hockey player, softball player (born 12 August 1978 in Shaunavon, Saskatchewan). A four-time Olympic gold medallist, Wickenheiser is the all-time leader in goals (18), assists (33), and points (51) for women’s ice hockey at the Olympic Winter Games and all-time leader in assists (48) and points (85) at the Women’s World Hockey Championship. She was also the first woman to score a goal in a men’s professional league. As of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games , Wickenheiser had 173 goals and 215 assists for 388 points in 296 games during a brilliant international career with Team Canada.

An Early Start at the Canada Winter Games

Like many Canadian hockey players, Wickenheiser first started playing ice hockey on a backyard rink built by her father. In 1990, Wickenheiser moved with her family to Calgary and then represented Alberta at the 1991 Canada Winter Games in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Wickenheiser played extremely well, even though she was only 12 years old at the time Participating in a tournament for teenage girls aged 17 and younger, she was not only the youngest player on her team but also the smallest (only 1.5 m or five feet tall). She scored three goals in the tournament, including the game-winning goal in the championship final as Team Alberta won the gold medal. Wickenheiser was named the tournament’s most valuable player (MVP).

In International Competition

The year 1992 would be a significant year for women’s hockey. Two years after Ottawa hosted the very first Women’s World Hockey Championship in 1990, the International Olympic Committee gave women’s ice hockey full-medal status for the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano. For Hayley Wickenheiser, these competitions were an opportunity to showcase her skills on the international sporting stage.

The World Hockey Championships

Wickenheiser played in her first Women’s World Hockey Championship for Team Canada in 1994 at Lake Placid, New York. At age 15, Wickenheiser was still the youngest player on her team. She played three games and posted one assist to help Canada win the gold medal.

At the 1997 World Championships in Kitchener, Ontario, 18-year-old Wickenheiser became an offensive force. She led Team Canada in scoring with nine points, and notched an assist on the overtime game-winning goal in the championship final as Canada defeated the United States 4–3. Wickenheiser later led Canada to the 1999 and 2000 Women’s World Hockey Championship titles, but was unable to attend the 2001 World Championship because of a knee injury. In 2005, Team Canada lost the gold-medal game of the Women’s World Hockey Championship to the United States for the first time.

In 2007, Wickenheiser set a Canadian record for most points (14) at a Women’s World Hockey Championship with eight goals and six assists. At the tournament in Winnipeg, Team Canada won its first World Championship since 2004 by beating the United States 5–1 in the gold-medal game. Wickenheiser, who took over the captaincy from Cassie Campbell, was the tournament MVP. She was also the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award winner as the Canadian Press Female Athlete of the Year in 2007.

Wickenheiser also displayed outstanding leadership at the 2012 Women’s World Hockey Championship in Burlington, Vermont. Team Canada won the gold medal by beating the United States 5–4 in overtime, after being defeated by the Americans 9–2 in the preliminary round.

Olympic Career

Wickenheiser was a force at the Olympic Games as well. However, despite Canada’s dominance at the World Championships in 1997, the team was not guaranteed an Olympic gold at the Games the following year. At the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, the United States defeated Canada 3–1 to win the first Olympic women’s hockey tournament. Wickenheiser would have to settle for an Olympic silver medal.

She would not have to wait long for gold, however. At the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Wickenheiser was the tournament’s most valuable player as Team Canada captured their first Olympic gold medal with a 3–2 win over the United States. Wickenheiser was the co-leader in goals (seven) and points (ten).

At the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin, the expectations were that Canada would need another strong performance from Wickenheiser to beat the Americans. In a major surprise, Sweden upset the United States in the semifinal, setting up an unexpected gold-medal game with Canada. The Canadians were victorious 4–1 in the gold-medal contest with Wickenheiser once again named tournament MVP, leading the tournament with 12 assists and 17 points.

Wickenheiser won her third gold medal in women’s hockey at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. These Olympic Games were special for Wickenheiser; not only were they her fifth Olympic Games (she had also competed in women’s softball at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney), she also delivered the athlete’s oath during the Opening Ceremonies.

At the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Wickenheiser was chosen to be the Canadian flag-bearer in the Opening Ceremonies. In the Olympic tournament, Wickenheiser notched two goals and three assists for five points in five games as Team Canada won their fourth consecutive gold medal.

However, it may be an overtime play in the gold-medal game that will be remembered most by Canadians. With the game tied at two goals apiece, Wickenheiser went on a breakaway, pursued closely by American player Hilary Knight. Wickenheiser fell, and the referee sent Knight off for cross-checking (Knight denied the penalty, but commentators agree there was likely some form of contact). To the surprise of many, there was no penalty shot, but during the Canadian power play, Marie-Philip Poulin scored the dramatic golden goal for Canada in another 3–2 victory.

Professional League

In 2002–03, Wickenheiser played in a Finnish men’s league, scoring two goals and nine assists for HC Salamat. On 31 January 2003, Wickenheiser became the first woman to score a goal in a men’s professional league.