TORONTO – On Friday morning, before Hayley Wickenheiser attended a ceremony to receive her Hockey Hall of Fame ring prior to her introduction on Monday, she completed a one-hour training course as part of her medical training as an emergency doctor.
In June, when Hall chair Lanny McDonald called to let her know that she had been elected in her first election year, Wickenheiser took a medical exam at the University of Calgary.
Wickenheiser, widely regarded as the best hockey player of all time, won seven world championships and four Olympic gold medals with Canada. Last year she was awarded the N.H.L. engaged as deputy head of player development.
But 41-year-old Wickenheiser has not slowed down and has aligned her studies with her duties in the Leafs front office while working with young players in the Western Hockey League.
"I sort of went from school to medical school to work with the Leafs, so it's a mix," said Wickenheiser, who is in the second year of a three-year medical study program. "I really haven't had a moment to take a breath since I retired, to be honest."
At least in January, she doesn't have to travel that far as she will continue her medical education in a teaching hospital in Toronto.
However, her main job will still be with the Maple Leafs, where she deserves the respect and attention of the players – and rightly so, said McDonald, who spent part of seven seasons with Toronto during his illustrious career.
"If you've ever watched her skate, how strong she is, and how she plays the game both mentally and physically, she has a lot to offer," McDonald said.
On Monday, Wickenheiser will be the seventh woman to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, with Angela James, Geraldine Heaney, Danielle Goyette, Jayna Hefford, Cammi Granato, and Angela Ruggiero joining. The other members of This year's class will be introduced on Monday by players Guy Carbonneau, Vaclav Nedomansky and Sergei Zubov as well as builders Jim Rutherford and Jerry York.
Since Leafs General Manager Kyle Dubas hired her last year, Wickenheiser has worked with John Tavares on his rehab after a broken finger and has done some skating and skills work. She did the same with striker Zach Hyman and defender Travis Dermott.
Wickenheiser also focuses heavily on the mental side of the game. Although sports psychology is not necessarily her specialty, studying medicine has opened up a new perspective on how to deal with the game mentally.
"The biggest part of being a professional and what makes people different is who can keep your head and whether it will work if things don't go well," she said.
She sees some aspects of medical care that could be emphasized by hockey teams, such as the teaching of humanity and empathy, which can be seen as a weakness in professional sports.
"We need to create an environment where if they have problems and don't feel good emotionally, they can have a place in the organization to feel safe and not lose their careers," she said. "I think a lot of organizations are dealing with it now."
The Leafs have certainly hired a wellness consultant and recently hired a team psychiatrist. The team also made waves in the male-dominated N.H.L. when it hired Wickenheiser and amateur scoutin Noelle Needham in August 2018.
A handful of women have entered the league: Former world figure skating champion Barbara Underhill has worked with the Maple Leafs and the Tampa Bay Lightning. In September, the Seattle Expansion Club announced that Granato, the captain of the U.S. team that won the gold medal in 1998, was the first female scout to join the N.H.L. And in 2016, Dawn Braid became the first female full-time N.H.L. Trainer when she became the Arizona Coyotes skating coach.
The launch of Wickenheiser comes in the course of numerous debates about the diversity in Canadian ice hockey. The violent emotions were excited by two comments, first by the broadcaster Don Cherry, who was dismissed for expressing what he believed to be insufficient patriotism from Canadians who did not wear poppies in honor of military personnel. Then the television personality Jessica Allen drew a backlash because she criticized hockey culture in Canada, noting in particular the "white boys" who are "often bullies". She and her network, CTV, later apologized for the comments.
Wickenheiser said she was struggling with the cherry brandy because she had known him for 20 years and that he was a vocal advocate for the game of women, even though she said she often shook her head at what he saw in his "Coach’s Corner Segments said "Overheadshots and my drug school age. It's hard to hear. "
However, she disagreed with Allen's opinion about the lack of diversity in hockey and invited Allen to the Wickenheiser World Female Hockey Festival, known as WickFest, on Twitter. This year was the 10th WickFest, which includes tournaments, workshops and clinics.
"Not every boy or girl who plays hockey is a privileged white person," Wickenheiser replied to Allen's comments. “Yes, hockey is primarily a white sport and an expensive sport. There is no doubt about that. I would love her to come to Calgary and talk about what we did with WickFest. We brought teams from India, China, Mexico and around the world and worked with marginalized children. "
Wickenheiser believes that hockey talks should focus on what is good for the game and on people who are good for the game. "This is the future of this game," she said. "It is not with those who are trying to pull it down."
Wickenheiser also recognizes that this is an important moment for women's hockey after the decline of the Canadian women's hockey league has left a pro-league in North America: the National Women's Hockey League, which with five teams and more on October 5 fifth season opened 100 players.
With the N.H.L. Commissioner Gary Bettman on the fragmentation of the women's game and believes that the league will eventually step up its support to "do what is right for the game for women".
"Women's hockey is at a crucial moment," she said. "If the leagues don't figure it out, it will be a lost moment."