Although it may not be the type of record that one may boast about, it happened for the second consecutive year in the CWHL Draft. During the 2014 edition of the draft, Jenny Potter became the oldest first-round pick in league history. This year, Hayley Wickenheiser becomes part of a similar record.
Selected in the second round, ninth overall in this season’s draft, the 36-year old Wickenheiser gains the distinction of becoming the oldest second round draft pick in league history. One of three University of Calgary Dinos players selected by the Inferno in this year’s draft, she is joined by centre Elana Lovell and left wing Janelle Parent,
While everything concerning Wickenheiser has been written about her career, the chance to suit up for the Inferno offers some great possibilities. From the outset, a Clarkson Cup victory would welcome her into the Triple Gold Club for Women. Although it is not formally recognized by the IIHF, the Club recognizes women that have captured the Clarkson, IIHF World Gold and Winter Games Gold.
In addition, the chance to become part of the Inferno’s roster brings Wickenheiser’s career full circle. Her name has become synonymous with women’s hockey in Calgary. At the turn of the century, she was a member of the Calgary Oval X-Treme, who would become one of Western Canada’s most prominent women’s hockey clubs.
Later playing for head coach (and former Winter Games teammate) Danielle Goyette at the University of Calgary, it only added to Wickenheiser’s hockey legacy in Calgary. While she has nothing left to prove on the ice, the chance to play for the Inferno brings ideal closure to her distinguished career.
Taking into account everything that Wickenheiser has accomplished in her career, her entry into the CWHL is akin to Nancy Lieberman-Cline. A legendary basketball player who was one of the modern era’s first superstars in the women’s game, she once played (and would later coach) in men’s semi-pro basketball. Joining the WNBA while she was in her forties, it was a chance to be part of another chapter in the game’s history. Joining the Inferno offers Wickenheiser a similar chance. .
Considering that the Inferno also drafted the likes of Brianne Jenner (first round) and Jillian Saulnier (third round), who both played together at Cornell University, it propels them into the championship conversation. Having also selected Blayre Turnbull and Brigette Lacquette, the result is that there is no pressure on Wickenheiser to be the franchise player.
Having struggled with injuries over the last three years, it would be unfair to expect that Wickenheiser would provide the same level of play that she did over a decade ago. With Rebecca Johnston having become the first Inferno player to capture the Angela James Bowl in 2015 (the same year that The Hockey News also named Brianna Decker the world’s greatest women’s hockey player), it was a symbolic passing of the torch.
There is no question that Wickenheiser could still be a first-line forward with practically any women’s team in the world. Yet, with the level of younger world-class talent (such as Johnston) on the Inferno, Wickenheiser is in a position to add depth, while adding a new dimension to the Inferno’s offense.
Despite being in the twilight of her career, a healthy Wickenheiser is still able to flash the signs of brilliance that once made her the world’s greatest player. Although she may be a first-year player in CWHL play, her exemplary career places her in a position where she can provide leadership as a mentor to younger players. For the members of the Inferno who may have never had the opportunity to play for Team Canada, the chance to call Wickenheiser a teammate may represent one of the hallmarks of their career, which may culminate in one of the most memorable seasons in Inferno history.
Photo credit: Hockey Canada Images