While dozens of novice hockey players skated around Arena #3 at the Surrey Sport & Leisure Complex on Saturday (Feb. 2), there was one player who stood out.
Hayley Wickenheiser, four-time Olympic gold medallist and Order of Canada recipient, was on the ice with the girls aged six to eight for a couple of recreational games during the Canadian Tire Hayley Wickenheiser Female World Hockey Festival tournament, also known as WickFest.
Asked how the girls reacted to getting to play with her, Wickenheiser was humble.
A lot of them probably don’t know who I am. I mean, they know because they came to my event here, so their parents have probably told them, but it’s a new generation, really,” she said.
Wickenheiser said she told the girls they get to carry the next generation into the next few winter Olympics.
“I think all the women we’ve had here as hockey players are role models. When I grew up, I had (Wayne) Gretzky and (Mark) Messier and others and now they have women on the national team and they’re household names many of them. It’s come a long way since I started.”
“I love being on the ice with the Timbits. It’s where you remember hockey to be the most pure and fun when you were a kid; it’s just going out to play — no whistles, no face-offs, drop the puck and play. That’s the way the game, I think, is truly meant to be.”
Now in its ninth year, WickFest is not just a hockey tournament, Wickenheiser said.
“People come here and they get hockey, but I want it to be a professional development weekend for kids and girls in hockey.”
In the years since the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, Wickenheiser said she thinks women’s and girls’ hockey has really grown in B.C.
This is the first time Surrey has hosted WickFest which runs from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3.
For more info on the event, visit wickfest.com.