On Monday night, Canadian women's hockey legend Hayley Wickenheiser was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. The four-time Olympic gold medalist and seven-time world champion retired in 2017 and went right to medical school after hanging up her skates. In 2018 she became the assistant director of player development for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Wickenheiser reflected on her journey during her induction speech. She said it was never about gender, and her parents were always there to remind her of that.
"It was not a common thing as a little girl to want to play hockey in the small town where I came from," she said, according to GlobalNews.ca. "But my mom and dad believed that a girl could do anything that a boy could."
The 41-year-old went on to discuss the struggles of being a girl in the sport growing up. She said in order to attend an all-boys hockey camp in Regina, she slept in a closet for a week.
"I wanted to play the game so bad. I didn't care what I had to endure," she said.
Growing up in Calgary, there were no girls hockey teams. Rather than shy away or back down from the sport, Wickenheiser joined the all-boys team. In order to blend in she said she tucked her hair under her helmet while playing. While she had the support of her parents, the acceptance was not universal.
"I was taking the spot of a boy, and people didn't really like that too much," she said.
The comments from others even started impacting her physical health, Wickenheiser revealed.
"I actually developed an ulcer. I wasn't nervous to get hit or to go on the ice. That's actually where I felt good," she said. "It was when I had to come to the rink and change in the bathroom and then walk through the lobby of all the parents — the comments and the harassment I would often hear..."
But the 2002 and 2006 Olympic tournament MVP said the negativity gave her "thick skin and resilience." She noted that one of the highlights of her career was being Canada's flag-bearer for the 2014 Olympics.
With her career on the ice over, Wickenheiser has not slowed down professionally one bit, and has medical exams to take this week.
In the players category, Wickenheiser was inducted along with three-time Stanley Cup winner Guy Carbonneau, Sergei Zubov and Vaclav Nedomansky. Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford and Boston College head coach Jerry York got their spot in the hall Monday night as builders.