Hayley Wickenheiser, whose name is synonymous with excellence in women’s hockey, was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame on Tuesday.
The 40-year-old native of Shaunavon, Sask., who now works with the Maple Leafs as a development coach, was one of the top players on four Olympic champion teams for Canada and earned her hall nod in her first year of eligibility.
“When you win seven world championships as one of the key players and captain, and win four (Olympic) gold medals and have a storied career and play on the men’s side as she did in Finland, that should tell you in itself how she was looked upon and revered by the hockey world,” said hall chairman Lanny McDonald.
Wickenheiser was not available on a conference call with the other inductees. She was taking an exam at medical school in Calgary. Others were happy to chime in on her behalf.
“We started together on the national team, she as a 15-year-old and me as a 20-year-old,” said Cassie Campbell-Pascal, another hall of famer. “We watched this program grow together, through the times when we all played for a Team Canada T-shirt to what it is today, with so many young girls having access to play the greatest game on earth.
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“We pushed each other on and off the ice, and formed one of the really good lines on Team Canada with Danielle Goyette. I always knew my role playing with them, and I always respected how consistent of a player she was.”
School has also kept Wickeneiser from joining the Maple Leafs’ development camp until later in the week. She is a coach within the organization, based in Calgary and working mostly with western prospects.
“She understands the game at an elite level,” said Scott Pellerin, the Maple Leafs’ senior director of player development. “She understands and communicates and relates to the players in that sense. The thing that is most impressive is her ability to deal with pressure and how to help our younger players understand it and cope with those situations.
“She was at the top of her game, representing the country in women’s hockey. For her to have the ability to relate those messages is really valuable to our guys. She brings so many different positive things to our group. We’re so excited to have her with us.”
Wickenheiser headed a list of six inductees, including a couple with strong ties to Toronto: Vaclav Nedomansky and Jim Rutherford.
Nedomansky made his name with Czechoslovakia and in the now defunct Word Hockey Association before he became an NHL rookie at 33, playing for the Red Wings in 1977. He was the first player from behind the Iron Curtain to defect to the West and he got his start in North America with the WHA’s Toronto Toros. He played two years for the organization, scoring 41 and 56 goals before the team moved to Birmingham in the rough-and-tumble WHA.
“The whole hockey league was some combination of players — rough players and skilled players,” Nedomansky said. “One time or two times I was attacked by the other teams. But it didn’t bother me at all because I was in great physical condition.”
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Rutherford was a long-time goalie — he played with Nedomansky in Detroit and was very briefly a Leaf. But he was inducted as builder. He has won the Stanley Cup three times, his first with Carolina in 2006 as part of a 20-year association with that organization, dating back to its days in Hartford. Then he joined the Pittsburgh Penguins and won two more Cups, in 2016 and 2017.
Only one other manager has managed two different teams to a Stanley Cup: Tommy Gorman, in the 1930s, with Chicago and the Montreal Maroons.
Also going in to the hall:
- Guy Carbonneau was the last captain of the Montreal Canadiens to hoist the Stanley Cup. He won the Cup three times, twice with Montreal, and earned the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the NHL’s top defensive forward three times.
“(The hall is) something you dream about and hope to be part of,” Carbonneau said. “To be on the same list as guys like Jean Beliveau and Guy Lafleur and Wayne Gretzky is unbelievable.”
- Sergei Zubov, the long-time Dallas Stars defenceman, won the Cup twice, the first with the New York Rangers in 1994. Zubov and Carbonneau were teammates on Dallas’s 1999 Stanley Cup win.
- Jerry York, the Boston College coach since 1994, is the winningest active coach in U.S. college hockey. His career that dates back to 1972 when he started at Clarkson University.
The induction ceremony will take place Nov. 18.
Kevin McGran is a sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @kevin_mcgran