Four-time Olympic gold medalist and women’s hockey legend Hayley Wickenheiser is heading to the CWHL to chase the Clarkson Cup next season. Wickenheiser, 36, announced Tuesday that she’ll be entering the CWHL draft on Aug. 23 with the intention of joining the Calgary Inferno for the 2015-16.
Hayley Wickenheiser is one of the most decorated players in hockey history, but she’s got her eyes set on adding to her resume in 2015-16.
The CWHL announced Tuesday that Wickenheiser, 36, will enter the league’s draft on Aug. 23, and her intention is to suit up for the Calgary Inferno next season. Wickenheiser will add to a lineup that just this past season included the league’s leading scorer, Rebecca Johnston, and fourth-highest scorer, Brittany Esposito. The impact of bringing Wickenheiser to the Inferno reaches further than the score sheet, however.
“Getting a player like (Wickenheiser) is huge; for us it’s like Bobby Hull joining the WHA, or Wayne Gretzky being traded to LA. It’s a game changer,” said Chantal Champagne, GM of the Calgary Inferno. “Players like that are one of a kind and it’s huge, not just for us but for the entire league. It proves that the CWHL is the league to play in.”
Signing Wickenheiser delivers some big star-power to the CWHL, which is important for a league that could potentially lose some of its big names to the budding NWHL, the first paid professional women’s league, which is set to begin play in 2015-16.
“Today’s announcement is a testament to the success of our league,” CWHL commissioner Brenda Andress said. “For Hayley to choose the CWHL as the next step in her hockey career reflects the high caliber competition that defines us. This is an exciting opportunity for the league to showcase one of the greatest players this sport has seen and we know our fans will be thrilled to see (Wickenheiser) competing throughout the season.”
With the CWHL so close to home for Wickenheiser – she resides in Calgary – it simply makes sense for her to play with the Inferno. This past season, Wickenheiser played with the University of Calgary Dinos women’s team, suiting up for 15 games and notching five goals and 19 points. Over her four seasons with the Dinos, Wickenheiser played in 76 games, scoring 58 goals and 144 points.
A five-time Olympic medalist, including gold medals at the past four Olympic games, and seven-time Women’s World Championship gold medalist, Wickenheiser has been one of the biggest stars in the women’s game over the course of her 12-year career and she said she’s looking forward to the level of play in the CWHL.
“I look forward to the competition and to playing with, and in some cases against, some of my national teammates,” said Wickenheiser. “It will be a fun and competitive league. It is a great show for the fans to see national players play more than every four years.”
And, beyond seeing national players, fans could be witnessing one of the final seasons in one of the most remarkable careers in hockey history. Eventually, the Hockey Hall of Fame will be calling for Wickenheiser, but if she has her way, that won’t be before she and the Calgary Inferno hoist the Clarkson Cup.