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Dinos announce addition of Hayley Wickenheiser

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The Canadian Press
9/15/2010 9:09:00 PM
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Danielle Goyette didn't even wait until the Winter Olympics were over before she started recruiting Hayley Wickenheiser to play for her at the University of Calgary.

Before the women's hockey gold-medal game in Vancouver, Goyette began lobbying Wickenheiser's partner Tomas Pacina and then her parents Tom and Marilyn in the athletes' friend and family lounge. She got them on board before putting the idea to Wickenheiser herself.

"At the beginning she was like 'What?' because she was at the Olympics and here I was asking her to play for the Dinos," said Goyette, who has coached the Calgary women's team for two seasons since retiring from the women's national team.

But Goyette kept it up over the summer, talking to Wickenheiser regularly about the merits of going back to school to finish her degree, and by the way, how playing for the Dinos was a good option for her.

The campaign paid off for the Dinos, who announced Thursday that the all-time leading scorer on the Canadian women's team will play for the university this season.

Goyette, 44, happens to be third on Canada's all-time scoring list. She and Wickenheiser were teammates on the Canadian team for a decade.

Goyette models the running of her team on the national women's program, which was attractive to Wickenheiser after spending last winter centralized in Calgary with the Olympic team.

"To me this is a professional set-up because you are on the ice every day, the team trains together and there's fitness testing," Wickenheiser explained. "If Danielle Goyette wasn't a part of the program and I didn't have the experience playing and working with her on a daily basis, I probably wouldn't have considered it.

"I did want go back and work on my degree. I know I'm going to get what I need from a training and practice standpoint because she's the coach."

At 32, Wickenheiser will be almost a decade older than her Dino teammates. She has over a year remaining on her kinesiology degree and hopes to one day go to medical school. She's never played university hockey before, so she has five years of eligibility in the CIS.

Wickenheiser has twice played men's pro hockey in Europe. While she intends to practise regularly with the men's university team, Wickenheiser says she didn't speak with coach Mark Howell about playing for them.

The women's team gives her more flexibility to play for the Canadian team and to also fulfil her corporate sponsorship responsibilities, than the men's team would.

"The guys are quite young in comparison to me and they don't have families and things like that," she said. "There's a lot more demands and you're expected to be at everything.

"If I need to go do corporate speaking and things like that, I might have to miss a couple practices and I could work around it with (Goyette). The women's team was more appealing to me overall."

The reality is Wickenheiser had few options. She's played several seasons with the Western Women's Hockey League's Oval X-Treme, but that team ceased operations due to financial issues. The WWHL's Strathmore Rockies don't practise every day and Wickenheiser says that is a requirement for her.

Her son Noah is in school and Pacina is a hockey coach. Wickenheiser wanted her family to remain in Calgary after an exhausting Olympic year. She felt the time wasn't right to explore a return to men's pro leagues in Europe.

Wickenheiser is captain of the national team. She feels she can further develop her leadership skills with far younger teammates.

"The challenge is going to be to take a team that's new in the CIS and a relative underdog compared to other programs and try to build it into a winning team this year," she said. "It will push me in other ways in that I'm going to have to get good at making the players around me better and bring up the level of the team."

The Dino women are coming off a 7-15 record in the Canada West conference. Last season was their first back in the CIS after a six-year stint in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference.

Wickenheiser has already practised with the Dinos because Goyette insisted she attend tryouts.

"Every time Wick was on the ice, they raised their level of hockey," Goyette said. "They're way better when she's on the ice than when she's not.

"They know she's good and they have to work so hard to play at her level. The fact she's there, now they believe they can win a league championship without even playing yet. I told them 'One player isn't going to change everything', but it's going to help."

Wickenheiser will make her debut with the Dinos in a two-game series Oct. 8-9 in Regina. The Dinos open at home Oct. 15 against Lethbridge.

She'll also attend a national women's team training camp Sept. 22-26 in Calgary.

Hayley Wickenheiser (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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