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Canada's Flag Bearer: Hayley Wickenheiser


Canada's Flag Bearer: Hayley Wickenheiser

 

With the Olympics approaching, I thought we'd take a look at the athlete chosen to be Canada's flag bearer in Sochi. If you're trying to think of a more deserving athlete to have the honor of carrying the maple leaf into the olympic stadium, you won't find a more suitable match than Hayley Wickenheiser.  While her name is known in a lot of Canadian households, she hasn't quite reached the hero status that we as Canadians seem to give some of her male counterparts.  There is something inherently wrong about this, because what she has accomplished is nothing short of remarkable.

Wickenheiser is most well known as one of the best female hockey players to ever play the game, a fact which can't be argued. It was apparent from a young age that she had amazing talent, and Hockey Canada named her to the national team at the ripe old age of 15. She would go on to help Team Canada win gold at the women's world hockey championships that very year.  In 1998 women's hockey was introduced to the Olympic Games and in what was a bit of a feeling out tournament, Canada fell to the United States in the finals taking home a silver medal in the inaugural event.  Even though they finished 2nd, Wickenheiser's talents didn't escape the eye of then GM of the men's team Bobby Clarke who invited Wickenheiser to take part in the Philadelphia flyers rookie camp in both 1998 and 1999. 

In 2002 she would return to the Olympics seeking revenge, and would help lead the Canadian women to victory over the United States on their home turf in Salt Lake City, taking home her first Olympic gold. The women's national team would go on to win gold in 2006, and most memorably in 2010 in Vancouver. Before the final game in 2010, the team from the United States took a Canadian flag and put it on the floor of their dressing room, stepping on it as a sign of disrespect toward the Canadian team.  After winning gold Wickenheiser gave one of the most memorable sound bites of the 2010 games when she looked into the CBC camera and said “The Americans had our flag on their floor in the dressing room, and now I want to know if they want us to sign it.”

Over her career representing Canada in women's hockey, Wickenheiser would amass 10 gold medals and 4 silver medals in the 4 Nations Cup, 7 gold medals and 5 silver medals at the Women's World Championship, and 3 gold medals plus 1 silver medal at the Olympic Games (becoming the all-time leading Olympic goal scorer along the way). On top of all this, she was the first female to score in a men's pro league when she joined HC Salamat in Finland.

Outside of hockey Wickenheiser was also a talented baseball player.  She represented Canada at the world juniors for fastball, and even earned a spot on the Olympic roster of the 2000 women's softball team.  When not practicing or competing in sporting events, Wickenheiser slowly worked on obtaining her BSc at the Unversity of Calgary over a 15 year period and intends to attend medical school to become a doctor when her sporting career is finished. 

Seriously, what's not to like about this lady?  She has been showing young Canadian women AND men what is possible with hard work and determination for years.  In my opinion she represents so many ideals that we as Canadians hold in such high esteem that picking anyone else to be the flag bearer for Team Canada 2014 would have seemed silly.  This honor could not have gone to a more worthy athelete.  As a person of penis, who couldn't even get a lucky assist in the women's leagues, I salute you Haley Wickenheiser. I salute you and all that you've accomplished. I know I will be filled with pride watching you carry our flag into Sochi, and expect the rest of the nation will be too.