Text by Theresa Rogers
In Canada, when you talk sports, hockey is king. And in hockey, five-time Olympic medalist Hayley Wickenheiser is queen. A dedicated and determined hockey player, leader and mother, Wickenheiser has been named number 20 of the Top 25 Toughest Athletes in the World by Sports Illustrated and is among the Globe and Mail’s “Power 50” influencers in sport. Most recently, QMI Agency named her among the top 10 “Greatest Female Athletes in the History of Sports.”
In 2011, she was appointed to the Order of Canada and most recently, inducted to Canada’s Walk of Fame.
Wickenheiser’s passion for sport is matched by her desire to give back to the community in her work with many organizations including her own – the annual World Female Hockey Festival (Wickfest) – the largest all-girl hockey tournament in the world. Girls left the last tournament, held in Calgary in November, with positive hockey experiences, new friends and leadership and life skills.
An important topic at Wickfest is proper nutrition, and as a spokesperson for Maple Leaf Foods as well as Gatorade Canada, it all comes together.
“As our leaders of tomorrow, it’s my hope the girls are leaving Wickfest feeling empowered and inspired,” says Wickenheiser, who is pursuing her BSc at the University of Calgary. “I am proud of every single participant for choosing an active and healthy lifestyle, and proud to support their futures.”
How do you choose those companies you will endorse?
I am passionate about a lot of things besides hockey and nutrition is one of them. When a brand like Maple Leaf approaches me, I am careful to consider if it fits into my beliefs and Maple Leaf certainly does. I am working toward a career in the medical/clinical field and nutrition is important to me, not just as an athlete, but as a professional. Protein is a major issue among young athletes and particularly young female athletes. I know that Maple Leaf is selling product, but they are also giving knowledge and that knowledge is very valuable. I am really proud of the extension of my relationship with them as they seek to not just sell, but inform.
We’re seeing a global health and wellness trend that is fuelling consumer demand for cleaner labels and less processing. How important is the right fuel?
It is exciting that consumer demand is driving these changes. We vote every day with our wallets about what we really want and I think this is a great example of a grassroots movement. It’s awesome.
You have a teenage son. How can we encourage children to eat healthy?
First and foremost, set the example! Secondly, keep an open communication about food which focuses on nutrients, not just filling the seemingly empty pit of a teenage boy’s stomach!
Where do you find inspiration?
You have to find it within yourself because if you constantly seek it outwardly, sooner or later the well will run dry. That’s not to say that I don’t find a lot of people inspirational – i.e. Nelson Mandela, Roberta Bondar, Grace Bowen (my young friend who passed of cancer last year). People are amazing.
If you weren’t a hockey player, what would you be doing?
For sure something in medicine.
I got into this sport because…
I didn’t know I “shouldn’t” and because I had to constantly burn energy moving or I would have driven my parents crazy. I still did sometimes.
What I love about this sport is…
It is constantly different and constantly evolving.
No shift is the same. No training moment is the same. No game is the same.