People would say, "Girls don't play hockey. Girls don't skate." I would say, "Watch this."
Wickenheiser first started playing ice hockey on a backyard rink built by her father. In 1990 she moved with her family to Calgary and then represented Alberta at the 1991 Canada Winter Games in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. 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 (at 5-feet [1.5-metres] 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).
Four-time Olympic gold medalist Hayley Wickenheiser of Canada was around 10 years old when she first had the idea of being both a professional hockey player and a doctor. Wickenheiser, now 41, grew up in Shaunavon, Saskatchewan, a town of fewer than 2,000 people and less than 2 square miles in size. A young girl in the area had been severely injured after getting hit by a grocery delivery van.
“I remember going to the hospital with all the kids in the neighborhood and just being really inspired and intrigued by the doctors and nurses that were taking care of her,” Wickenheiser said. “That’s how it all started. At that age, I had two goals: to play for the Edmonton Oilers and to go to Harvard Medical School.”
After retiring in 2017 as Team Canada’s career scoring leader, Wickenheiser enrolled in medical school at the University of Calgary, then took on the role as an assistant director of player development for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2018. She was in the midst of her clinical rotation in emergency rooms around Toronto two weeks ago, when medical students and trainees were pulled from their assignments as the number of coronavirus cases in the country reached a critical point.
Wickenheiser has related her medical colleagues’ traits to her athletic peers as a way of supporting their efforts during the current crisis. “I was talking to a friend who has been an emergency physician for 20 years, and she was describing how she had to shut down communications with friends because she was getting text messages from people saying how they were so sorry for her and grieving that she had to do her job, and she didn’t feel that way at all,” Wickenheiser said. "I said, ‘This is your med Olympics. This is like the Olympics for you. Yes, you’re at risk, but you’re also really damn good at your job and smart, and you’re going to do everything you can to protect yourself and your staff.’ ”
- Chicago Tribune