Hayley Wickenheiser shares lessons from sport and life in new book “Over the Boards”


Hayley Wickenheiser doesn’t have a lot of free time.

Both physician and senior director of player development for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the four-time Olympic gold medalist is almost always on the move.

So how exactly did she find the time to write a book?

“Living in the GTA, all you do is drive… to the practice rink, to the hospital,” Wickenheiser said with a laugh. “I spoke a lot on my phone and I wrote it that way. It was a process.

“It’s amazing how many hours we spend in our cars. There’s a lot of time to talk.”

Turns out she had a lot to say.

Wickenheiser’s book “Over the Boards: Lessons from the Ice,” which came out earlier this week, sees the Hockey Hall of Fame sharing many of the lessons she’s learned, often the hard way, in the sport. and in life.

Success. Failure. Joy. Grief. Pressure. Break down the doors. Push through.

But the staunch supporter of Canada’s women’s hockey program for more than two decades – and one who recently graduated from medical school – wasn’t sure anyone would care to read her words.

“I was approached to write it down and I was like, ‘Well, what do I have to say that is interesting?’ Wickenheiser, 43, said in a telephone interview with The Canadian Press. “A lot of people know about my experiences.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, however, she realized her journey – a young girl looking for a place to play in a sport she was not welcome who then made the biggest scene and went on to become a doctor – and all the pressure, uncertainty, change, and criticism she experienced along the way could help others.

“I thought if I could convey a few things, or give some people hope right now, then I would,” Wickenheiser said.

“Over the Boards” is divided into three parts, modeled on the defensive, neutral and offensive areas of hockey. She talks about building a foundation first, then getting creative before finally letting go – “it’s time to let go”.

But the book doesn’t begin on his family’s ice rink in rural Saskatchewan or with an Olympic gold medal hanging around his neck in Salt Lake City, Turin, Vancouver or Sochi.

It all started in a Toronto emergency room on Wickenheiser’s first day as a medical student.

She was once again a recruit to the veterans – now they were doctors and nurses instead of attackers and defenders – and a young patient suspected of a drug overdose was heading towards them.

“I panicked,” wrote Wickenheiser, who had followed doctors as she made her way through undergraduate and master’s degree programs, but never looked that sideways until then. “My heart rate increased. I started to breathe rapidly. I lost my bearings.

“I had seen all of these things happen and now, on my first shift, all I could think of was, ‘I’m not qualified. What am I doing here?'”

Then she took a moment and put her hair back in a ponytail, like she did before every hockey game, and suddenly “everything slowed down”.

The pressure, as she will write later, is a privilege.

And Wickenheiser had been in countless high pressure situations on the ice. She just needed to build on those experiences in her new role – in this case, performing CPR at two-minute intervals before the doctor told her to stop.

The patient, the same age as Wickenheiser’s son, had died.

“I will never forget this young man for as long as I live,” said the seven-time female world champion in her interview with CP. “When you are responsible, in a way like I have been, for the life of another human being, it puts a lot of things in perspective. felt during a hockey game for the gold medal at the Olympics.

“The pressure is very different… it’s such an honor to be in these times with people where they are having the worst day of their lives. You realize that life is very short and we never know when it might be our. last day It’s a bit cliché, but it reminded me that we only have one chance in this life, and we should try to make the most of it as it goes by so fast.

“I had a million thoughts in my head with his presence, but just being there, getting hold of another person who is fighting for their life, it was very deep.”

His book was born that day.

“I hope people find some hope and inspiration,” Wickenheiser said. “Not everything is possible (in life), but I think we put limits on ourselves that we don’t need. I’m probably a living example of someone who has lived against the tide. Every time that the doors closed or people said, ‘No, I tried to find other ways.

“If people can draw these parallels in their own lives, and if there are nuggets in the book that they personally find resonating with them, it will have been mission accomplished.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on October 15, 2021.

“Above the Boards: Lessons in Ice.” Hayley Wickenheiser. Viking / Penguin Random House Canada, 223 pages, $ 29.95.

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