The incomparable Hayley Wickenheiser is calling it a career.
The four-time Olympic gold medallist from Shaunavon, Sask., announced her retirement on Friday night on Twitter, a decision she came to because she wants to pursue medical school and spend more time with her son, Noah.
"It’s very emotional, because it’s something you’ve loved your whole life," Wickenheiser, 38, told Sportsnet. "But this is where I am."
Asked whether there was anything she wanted to accomplish in her hockey career but didn’t, Wickenheiser shook her head, no.
It’s understandable, really.
No. 22 leaves the game with a body of work no woman has ever amassed in hockey. She won five Olympic gold medals (four gold, one silver), seven world championships, and was the first woman to score a goal in men’s professional hockey.
More than that, she was the face of hockey not just in Canada, but in many countries around the world for the better part of a decade.
Today, you can debate over who the best female player in the world is. When Wickenheiser was in her prime, there was no question it was her. She retires with a record 16 goals in Olympic play.
No. 22 broke into the national team at age 15 and was considered the world’s best only a couple of years later, while still a teenager.
Many will remember her post-game moment at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, the first in which Canada won gold. A fired-up Wickenheiser told Don Cherry that she’d heard the Americans had the Canadian flag in their dressing room, and said: "And now I wanna know if they want us to sign it!"
Her play at the first Olympics ever to include women’s hockey, in 1998, so impressed Bobby Clarke that he invited her to a couple of the team’s rookie camps. In 2003 she moved to Finland to play in a division II men’s pro league, Kirkkonummi Salamat, and had two goals and 10 assists in 23 games.
Wickenheiser played softball for Canada at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and had a team-best batting average. She, along with American Angela Ruggiero, became the first women featured in a pro hockey video game. She was named an officer of the Order of Canada in 2011. Next up, her goal is to become Dr. Wickenheiser.
She plans to take a break from the ice while she attends school, but Wickenheiser will still be involved in hockey. Her annual girls’ hockey festival, Wickfest, which now attracts nearly 3,000 players from countries all over the world, will continue to be held annually in Calgary.
Wickenheiser paused a bit to consider what she hopes she leaves behind as her legacy.
"What I’d want people to think about is that I truly love the game," she said, finally. "I loved to play for Canada and represent the country, and I hope that my impact makes it easier for little girls now to play the game. And that they’ll have a chance to love it the way I did."