Wickenheiser at Western
London Community News
By Jonathon Brodie/London Community News / Twitter: @jonathonbrodie
It’s only the Western Mustangs women’s hockey team’s first game of the year — a preseason matchup on Sunday (Sept. 16) at Thompson Arena—and they already have probably one of their biggest fan turnouts for the season.
Who the fans came for was evident after the Calgary Dinos', the opposing team, first goal when three-time Olympic gold medalist Hayley Wickenheiser found the back of the net in a 3-0 effort for the defending champions — probably the loudest the crowd would get all game.
“The first year (Wickenheiser) played in the league (Canadian Interuniversity Sports), everywhere we went that’s what happened,” said Dinos’ head coach Danielle Goyette, a former teammate on the national team with Wickenheiser, about the roar from the crowd.
This is the second-year playing at the university level for arguably the best women’s hockey player in the world, deciding to go back to school to complete her kinesiology degree after the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
It’s more than just opposing fans who cheer on Wickenheiser, though. After almost 20 years playing at the national level, the 34-year-old has motivated generations of female hockey players.
“It is a little bit weird, but it’s flattering too because I am quite a bit older than a lot of these kids, so I can see them probably watching me play over the years,” Wickenheiser said about the compliments given to her by opposing players. “It’s nice to know that maybe you’ve inspired someone and really that’s probably the best compliment that you can get as a player.”
Wickenheiser continues to motivate. Before the game ended, a couple hundred fans lined up in anticipation for the hockey star to sign autographs and pose for photos.
“She’s done so much with it and inspired so many girls,” said Mustangs’ rookie goaltender Kelly Campbell, but when it comes to game time Wickenheiser is treated like everyone else on the ice. “I was just going out there and playing like she’s another player out there. I don’t pay attention to numbers. A shot is a shot.”
The international champion helped guide the Dinos to their first women’s hockey championship and was named the CIS player of the year—the first Dino to win the Broderick Trophy.
While her teammates have learned from her on the ice, Wickenheiser has been getting help from her team elsewhere.
“I enjoy working with the girls to try and bring their level up and I think they help me too in a lot of areas,” Wickenheiser said. “They help me with my classes all the time. They’re smarter than I am.”
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