Hayley Wickenheiser is used to breaking down gender barriers.
The greatest female hockey player of all-time, she joined a men’s professional team in Finland for two seasons during her playing career. And on Thursday, the four-time Olympic gold medallist earned a job in the male dominated field of hockey management.
In a progressive move, Wickenheiser has been hired by the Toronto Maple Leafs as assistant director of player development.
A shoo-in for the Hockey Hall of Fame, Wickenheiser retired following a 23-year hockey career in 2017. A seven-time World Champion and five-time Olympic medalist, she was Canada’s flag-bearer at the Opening Ceremony at Sochi 2014. She has the most goals, assists, and points ever recorded for the Canadian Women’s National Team and is the all-time leading scorer in Olympic women’s hockey history.
Wickenheiser’s talents aren’t limited to hockey, as she also participated at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney as a member of the Canadian softball team. In 2011, she was named to the Order of Canada.
Serving as a guest coach at Maple Leafs Development Camp this summer, that was the first clue that the team was considering her for a role with the club.
Wickenheiser wasn’t the only female hired to the team’s hockey operations on Thursday, as the Leafs also announced that they’ve brought on Noelle Needham as an amateur scout based in the midwestern United States. Needham has spent the past nine years running Legend Hockey in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She also played collegiate hockey at Minnesota State University from 2004-2007.
The Leafs also announced that they’ve elevated Scott Pellerin to the role of senior director of player development, and Stephane Robidas to director of player development. In addition, they have hired Victor Carneiro as an amateur scout based in Ontario.
It’s been a busy offseason in Toronto’s front office, as Brendan Shanahan promoted Kyle Dubas to general manager, causing a ripple effect. The Leafs hired Laurence Gilman and lost Lou Lamoriello and Mark Hunter.