Awesome Totally Awesome Wickenheiser

Maple Leafs Move With the Times in Hiring Wickenheiser, the GOAT of Women’s Hockey

The Toronto Maple Leafs announced that they hired Canadian Olympian and gold medalist Hayley Wickenheiser as Assistant Director of Player Development on Thursday, August 23, 2018.

Wickenheiser attended the Maple Leafs’ prospect camp in June as a guest coach and was brought into a Toronto front office under General Manager Kyle Dubas and president Brendan Shanahan that already includes Dr. Meg Popovic, regional scout Noelle Needham and skating coach Barb Underhill.

The topic of women in hockey is nothing new (foreshadowing), but Dubas’ hiring of Wickenheiser is placing her in a high-profile role that has been otherwise monopolized by the biological heterogametic sex that occupies the Y chromosome.

Wickenheiser’s Hockey Resume

Wickenheiser is no stranger to an elite level of hockey having represented Canada in the Winter Olympics five times-ever since women’s hockey was a thing in the Olympics. She has four gold medals, one silver medal, and won the tournament MVP in two of those five tournaments.

Beginning her playing career at the age of 15, Wickenheiser represented Canada in international play for 23 years, was the youngest player to ever play for Canada and won 12 world championships. She is the most decorated female in Canadian history.

This is not the first time Wickenheiser has had her name associated with the NHL as she attended the Philadelphia Flyers training camp in 1998 and 1999 and was a guest coach for the Edmonton Oilers in 2017.

In an interview with the Toronto Sun, Dubas argued that a more diverse operation can improve decision-making and this is just one example of moves towards more progressive front offices in hockey.

Other Women That Have Infiltrated the NHL Boys Club

Not all NHL clubs hire women only in an ice-crew or cheerleading capacity. Whether those women need to be wearing skimpy clothing to scrape up snow around the creases is not an argument that needs to be discussed here because it already was here.

Other than the aforementioned Flyers’ rookie camps Wickenheiser attended in the late 1990s, U.S. Olympian Hilary Knight skated at an Anaheim Ducks practice in 2014 and won the gold medal with U.S. this year in Pyeongchang. It was the first time the U.S. had won the gold medal in women’s hockey since 1998.

Arizona Coyotes hired Dawn Braid as a full-time coach in August 2016. Prior to being hired on full-time, Braid spent time as a consultant with the Leafs, Ducks, Calgary Flames and Buffalo Sabres and was the director of skating development at Athletes Training Center in Ontario.

In 2017, the New Jersey Devils became the first NHL team to join forces with a National Women’s Hockey League team-the Metropolitan Riveters. The NWHL itself began in 2015.

Minnesota Wild’s vice president of customer service and retention Maria Troje Poitras was named a 2018 Women in Business Honoree. Troje Poitras has been with the Wild for 17 years incentivizing reward programs and was instrumental in bringing the Stadium Series to Minnesota in 2016.

Knight and Wickenheiser have not been the only women to play with men in professional leagues. Goalie Shannon Szabados became the first woman to post a shut out in the Southern Professional Hockey league while playing for the Columbus Cottonmouths. She is scheduled to join the NWHL by signing with the Buffalo Beauts in June.

In 1992, NHL legend and Tampa Bay Lightning founder Phil Esposito dropped jaws and suited goalie Manon Rheaume for an exhibition game where she played the 20 minutes against the St. Louis Blues. This was the first time a woman played for an NHL team in any capacity.

Regardless of Rhéaume’s initial, “it didn’t’ matter to me why I was invited,” attitude she told Sportsnet last year, Rhéaume’s participation along with all the aforementioned women have blazed paths for both men and women to recognize that something as frivolous as sex is irrelevant when determining who has a better hockey mind.

Who Cares About the Sex of a Person if They Know Their Shit.

The Feminist Theory began in the 1980s and has evolved into a way “to explore how gender identity shapes foreign policy decision making and how gendered hierarchies reinforce practices that perpetuate inequalities between men and women,” (Charles W. Kegley, Jr. and Shannon L. Blanton, World Politics: Trend and Transformation, 2013).

In her 2013 book Fortunes of Feminism: From State-Managed Capitalism to Neoliberal Crisis Nancy Fraser provides her own critique on Jürgen Habermas’ The Theory of Communicative Action: Reason and the Rationalization of Society stating that even Habermas’ perspective of transformative social norms excluded the role and potential of women.

Kegley, Jr., Blanton, and Fraser were all arguing the similar point that whether it is in Habermas’ ideas of material and/ or symbolic reproduction, policy implementation, and professional sports, women like Wickenheiser, Braid, Dr. Popovic, and others show fans that all sexes and genders can contribute to the improvement on the sport equally.

Objectively speaking, the question can be begged: who cares about the sex of a person if they know their shit.

The Toronto Maple Leafs and general manager Dubas have helped further establish a place for women and everyone alike in professional hockey, and regardless of what fans may think of the team of hiring a woman in a player development role, the Leafs can benefit from her expertise.

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