June 10, 2013

Hayley Wickenheiser nets another goal: a degree

Olympian finishes degree after 17 years
Hayley Wickenheiser, OC, will graduate with a Bachelor of Kinesiology during convocation ceremonies at the University of Calgary on Monday, June 10.

Hayley Wickenheiser, OC, will graduate with a Bachelor of Kinesiology on June 10.

When Hayley Wickenheiser walks across the stage during Monday’s convocation ceremony, it will be the culmination of years of hard work and the achievement of a goal she set for herself many, many years ago.

“I think I actually started my degree in ’96, so it’s been a 17-year process,” says Wickenheiser with a laugh. “I’ve been chipping away at it, but I always had the idea in mind that I would finish my degree. My parents are both teachers, and it was ingrained in us as kids that education is important. So it was always a goal of mine, and it’s something that I’m very proud to be able to do.”

It seems hardly necessary to introduce Hayley Wickenheiser, OC, but for the record, the soon-to-be- Bachelor of Kinesiology graduate also happens to be “widely considered the greatest female hockey player in the world,” according to sources like the Canadian Hockey Hall of Fame and Wikipedia. Wickenheiser was the first woman to play professional hockey in a position other than goalie. She’s been to the Winter Olympic Games four times and won three gold and one silver medal and was twice named the tournament MVP.

So with all of these honors, why would Hayley make a point of leaving Team Canada’s boot camp in Penticton, B.C., to drive back to Calgary for Monday’s convocation ceremony?

She believes it’s important. “The biggest reason I’m going to walk across that stage is for my son. When I was 10 years old, my mom moved away from home for a year and went back to school in Regina to upgrade her teaching degree. I think for me to walk across the stage, and for my son to see that is really important for me, because I’ve never forgotten how proud I was of my mom. I want my son to be inspired in the same way, and to do that for his kids, and that’s why I think it’s important.”

Hayley Wickenheiser first joined the Dinos women’s hockey team, wearing jersey #22, for the 2010-’11 season.

Hayley Wickenheiser first joined the Dinos women’s hockey team, wearing jersey #22, in 2010-’11.

David Moll

Wickenheiser made the decision to come back to school as a full-time student before the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic games. The fact that her friend and line-mate Danielle Goyette was coaching the team made her decision much easier. “It worked out perfectly,” says Wickenheiser. “I knew that I wasn’t ready to finish my hockey career, I wanted to keep playing, so it was a perfect situation. I’ve spent most of my career training and playing at the Oval and I enjoyed coming back and being a student. Outside of being a professional athlete, being a student athlete is the next best life. I’m really going to miss it.”

Once she started playing, she found the level of play was better than advertised, and she’s hopeful that if her time with the Dinos has done anything, it’s shown Canadians that the level of hockey played by women in Canadian Interuniversity Sports is very good.

Of course, for the best female player in the world, playing hockey is the easy part. Going back to school as a full-time student was the bigger challenge. “The first thing is that you kind of have to learn how to learn again,” says Wickenheiser. “Things have also changed a lot, I mean I think that I was the only one using a pad and paper! The first few months were a bit of a whirlwind, but I got used to it pretty fast.”

Following convocation, Wickenheiser plans to return to hockey, training hard with the national team in preparation for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games. Then she plans on applying to medical schools across the country for the next chapter in her academic life.

“The University of Calgary has some amazing people,” says Hayley. “The Faculty of Kinesiology is a great environment and I’m just happy to have had the opportunity to be there … everybody has been so accommodating for my schedule as an athlete. I’m excited to move onto different things in life, but at the same time, I really value my time at the University of Calgary. It was an awesome experience.”