Of all the awards and accolades that Hayley Wickenheiser has accumulated in her sterling career, one of the most unique was her recent induction into Canada’s Walk of Fame. Among the Class of 2014, Wickenheiser is joined on the Walk of Fame by Rachel McAdams, Ryan Reynolds, former Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour and a posthumous induction for musician Jeff Healey.
The inductees have their names engraved on stars, which are then displayed on the sidewalks of Toronto’s Entertainment District at King Street West and Simcoe Street.
The honor helps to celebrate Canadians that have accomplished excellence covering various areas, including music, television and film, along with sports, science and literature.
Although Hayley Wickenheiser makes history as the first women’s hockey player to gain induction into the Walk of Fame (eight men’s hockey players and Canada’s 1972 Summit Series team share the honor), it is an accomplishment that shall forever be linked to the hockey immortal. As a side note, she also received the Order of Canada in 2011.
From her debut as a 14-year-old with Canada’s gold medal winning roster at the 1994 IIHF Women’s Worlds, it was evident that she represented a bright future for the game.
After a sterling career that has spanned 20 years, her status as the world’s greatest women’s hockey player ever is the gold standard by which other players shall be measured.
Like Babe Ruth in baseball and Michael Jordan in basketball, she sits undisputed at the top of her respective sports mountain. Even though players such as Angela James, France St. Louis, Stacy Wilson, Geraldine Heaney, Vicky Sunohara and Sue Scherer set the foundation, leading the resurgence of the game, Wickenheiser helped elevate the game to a larger audience.
There is an ominous feeling that the 2014 Sochi Winter Games were Wickenheiser’s swan song, similar to the way that the 1976 Canada Cup represented Bobby Orr’s last stint in a Canadian jersey. Although Sochi provided Wickenheiser and her teammates Jayna Hefford and Caroline Ouellette with the opportunity to become the first Canadian women to win gold medals in four consecutive Winter Games, perhaps there was a greater legacy.
It provided Wickenheiser with the chance to play alongside a new generation of players. Competing with Melodie Daoust, Laura Fortino, Lauriane Rougeau, Natalie Spooner and Jennifer Wakefield, it was a passing of the torch, a unique hockey crossroads where she has the chance to play with those who grew up admiring her.
Although the induction into Canada’s Walk of Fame will surely mark the beginning of so many other honors to come (think the Canadian Order of Hockey, the IIHF Hall of Fame, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame), it is not a time to mourn the eventual end of a sterling career. Instead, the induction is an opportunity to celebrate her career and appreciate the impact that she had on inspiring subsequent generations of Canadian girls to break barriers and follow their dreams.