Wick started by saying how fitting it was for Angela James to present her HHOF plaque as they were linemates when Wickenheiser was 15. “She was my centerman and all she said to me was ‘Rook, just get me the puck and everything’s will be okay,’” she recounted with a laugh.
Wickenheiser thanked her parents for supporting her, even though girls didn’t play hockey when she was growing up, saying ‘yes’ when she asked if she could play. “My mom fought for the right not only for me to play but for 100s of other girls,” she explained as her mother set up leagues wherever their family was living. She mentioned the debt her family went into every four years around the Olympics and how she wasn’t able to help them retire or pay off their house — something that many men who entered the Hall before her had the opportunity to do as professional athletes.
Growing up, Wickenheiser played on boys’ teams. She recalled how she had to sleep in a closet to attend a week-long, sleepaway hockey camp. She talked about how hard it was for her to walk through the lobbies of rinks where she wasn’t accepted by the parents or other players, but how that helped her to grow a thicker skin.
At 15, she joined the Canadian National Team, full of female players who were much older than her. She called playing for Team Canada as the “greatest honor” of life.
“What I learned from those women is they gave up their careers, they fought for relevance. Instead of asking what the game could give them, they asked what they could give the game. They changed my life forever.”
She continued to talk about her time playing in Europe and her current role in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization.
Wickenheiser closed by talking about her young nieces and how their experiences will be vastly different from own.
“If they decide to play hockey, they can walk into a hockey rink anywhere in Canada with a hockey bag and a hockey stick over their shoulder, and nobody is going to look twice. They don’t have to cut their hair short and run into the bathroom and try to look like a boy, like I had to do to blend in. The road is just a little bit easier.”
Wickenheiser was voted into the Hall of Fame in her first year of eligibility. Perhaps the most decorated women’s hockey player, she won four Olympic gold medals, one Olympic silver, seven World Championship golds, and six Worlds silvers in addition to being the first woman to ever play men’s professional hockey in Finland, in the third-tier Suomi-Sarja.
She is the seventh woman to be inducted into the HHOF. Last year, Jayna Hefford was inducted. Danielle Goyette was inducted in 2017 as well as Angela Ruggiero (2015), Geraldine Heaney (2013), Cammi Granato (2010) and Angela James (2010).