Hockey legend Hayley Wickenheiser is one of the greatest female hockey players of all time. She’s one of Canada’s most decorated athletes – a six-time Olympian with four Olympic gold medals and a Women’s World Hockey Champion with six Gold medals under her belt. The superstar forward is also a member of the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes Commission; she was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame and appointed to the Order of Canada for her stellar contributions to the growth of women’s hockey.
But Number 22 is now calling it quits – she hung up her skates in January 2017 to go to medical school and spend more time with her son, Noah. And even though the lightning-fast skater with the killer slap shot loves speed, she’s taking it slower these days, driving a 2016 Ford F-150 Limited truck – part of a sponsorship deal she has had for nearly 15 years with Merlin Ford in Saskatoon, SK.
Petrina Gentile: “Do people do double-takes when they see you driving this monster truck?”
Hayley Wickenheiser: “Not in Alberta. Every second car out here is a truck or an SUV. Most pro hockey players I know around here drive a truck so I think I’m one of many in the parking lot at the rink.
“The truck is really convenient and practical for my lifestyle. It’s awesome. I love it. My last F-150 truck was detailed inside – it was crazy. It had my autograph on the headrests and four-time gold medalist on the dash and running boards. But this truck just has 22 in the headrests in the front, but nothing on the outside. It’s cool.”
PG: “What does an F-150 say about you?”
HW: “It says I am a fairly active, practical person who is constantly on the move. I need a lot of space to carry a lot of stuff. I’m pretty outdoorsy – from riding to paddle-boarding to hauling a boat. I need a lot of space to do the activities we do.”
PG: “What was your first car?”
HW: “My first car was a Honda Prelude. My next two cars were a Dodge Colt that I traded for a pair of skates and a [Chrysler] K-Car which I traded for a TV.”
PG: “Seriously?! You swapped cars for skates and a TV set?”
HW: “I got the Dodge Colt from a friend of a teammate. I bought it and left home. I paid zero for it because I traded it for a brand-new pair of skates so it probably cost me 500 bucks. I drove it to Calgary and by the time I got to Calgary the bottom was rusted out of the car and it had no rear suspension so every time you went over a bump it would just go up and down, up and down. Depending on where you put your foot, you could put your foot right through the bottom of the car. It was a character car – you have to have those in your life. It was a great second car.
“One of my teammates gave me the K-Car for a TV. We swapped. I loved that car because it was a station wagon so I could put a lot of stuff in it as well. It got me through a couple of years. It was another character car. They both ran well and they served a purpose – to get me from A to B, which is all I needed in a vehicle. Once I got the sponsorship with Merlin Ford, I donated it to the Kidney Foundation, but it was still running well.”
PG: “What’s your driving record like?”
HW: “It’s pretty good, but I did recently get a ticket. It’s the first ticket on my record in the last five or six years so it’s not bad.”
PG: “Was it for speeding?”
HW: “Yeah. I probably drive a little too fast. The truck is good because it makes you drive slower. If I had a sports car I’d probably be in trouble.”
PG: “When did you start driving?”
HW: “I was around the farm in a small town where you needed to work and learn how to drive to be able to drive the equipment whether it was a grain truck or tractor. I started learning how to drive on a garden tractor. I moved into driving other vehicles around the farm – trucks and tractors to help. I was begging my mom to learn how to drive our van when I was a kid. I went out countryside driving and in the field when I was about 12. These days you wouldn’t be doing that, but we did back then.”
PG: “Are you a better driver because of that experience?”
HW: “Absolutely. Wide open spaces with few vehicles around so you could have a lot of trial and error. I actually have my motorcycle license as well. The combination of that and driving a motorcycle makes you a better driver because you’re hyper aware that anytime you could be hit so you have to think defensively all of the time. I still own a dirt bike, but I don’t ride on roads anymore. I haven’t for a long time because it’s just not worth it to me to take the risk.”
PG: “Did you teach your son to drive?”
HW: “He did Driver’s Ed., but when he was 14 I started driving with him because I wanted him to have a couple years of experience before he did the driver’s course. My son is very cautious – if anything I had to encourage him to drive a little more assertively. There were a few white-knuckle moments. But he’s doing okay, so far. He has his own car now – a Chevy Cobalt, a little starter car. He doesn’t like to drive the truck – it’s so big for him it’s a bit intimating.”
PG: “Are there any rules when you’re driving with him?”
HW: “The only rule is that when I’m driving he can’t tell me how to drive because he thinks he knows every rule on the road. He does know every rule – these new drivers know everything. He points out everything – how terrible of a driver I am, the rules I’m breaking, or the stop sign I rolled through – whatever it may be. My rule with him is he has to stop being a backseat driver when he is with me or I make him drive.”
Profession: Four-time Olympic Gold Medalist and Women’s World Hockey Champion
Hometown: Shaunavon, Sask.
My Cars: 2016 Ford F-150 Limited truck
• chosen for the Canadian Women’s National Hockey Team at 15
• six-time Olympian who attended five Games for hockey and one game for softball at the Sydney games in 2000
• only the second Canadian female athlete to compete at both the summer and winter Games
• earned a silver medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics and four Olympic gold medals in 2002, 2006, 2010, and 2014
• worked as a Softball Analyst with CBC’s coverage of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics
• named MVP of the Salt Lake City 2002 and Turin 2006 women’s hockey tournaments, leading the scoring at both
• 2014 Sochi Olympics, selected to be flag bearer for Canada’s Olympic team in the Opening Ceremonies
• 2008, named one of the Top 25 Toughest Athletes in the World by Sports Illustrated
• 2007, won the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award as Canada’s Female Athlete of the Year
• 2003, made hockey history when she became the first female hockey player to score a goal in a men’s professional game with the Kirkkonummen Salamat of the Finnish second division
• holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Calgary and an honorary doctorate from Nipissing University in North Bay, ON
• returning back to school to pursue a Doctor of Medicine
• eighth year running her annual hockey festival called “Canadian Tire Wickenheiser Female World Hockey Festival” (www.wickfest.com) with all proceeds going to JumpStart and Right to Play
• ongoing philanthropic endeavors include KidSport, Project North, Ovarian Cancer Canada, Right to Play, JumpStart, and several others