Hayley Wickenheiser
Hayley Wickenheiser speaks at the June 7, 2018 convocation ceremony after receiving an honorary degree from the University of Calgary. Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Jan. 31, 2023

UCalgary alumna Hayley Wickenheiser honoured with 2022 Nation Builder of the Year Award

Empire Club of Canada recognizes hockey icon’s contribution to Canadian society

Canadian hockey legend and University of Calgary alumna Dr. Hayley Wickenheiser, MD, has been making headlines since she was chosen for the Canadian Women’s National Hockey Team at just 15 years old. Now, the Empire Club of Canada has honoured her with the 2022 Nation Builder of the Year award. 

The annual honour recognizes individuals or organizations who have made a positive, timely and lasting contribution to Canadian society and are inspiring role models for Canadians. The award formalizes what the Empire Club has been doing since 1903 — celebrating and providing a platform for people who are building our country. 

Hayley Wickenheiser

Courtesy Hayley Wickenheiser

A lifetime of achievement 

Wickenheiser, BKin’13, MSc’16, MD’21, was named assistant general manager, player development for the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 5, 2022. This followed a distinctive career that saw her capture five Olympic medals, seven World Championships, and be inducted into both the Hockey Hall of Fame and the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame in 2019. 

She retired from hockey in 2017 to pursue her dream of becoming an emergency room doctor, completing her education at UCalgary's Cumming School of Medicine in 2021. Wickenheiser is currently in Toronto, in a family medicine program, with an interest in adding further emergency medicine training when she completes her residency. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Wickenheiser has been working in emergency rooms and has contributed her time and energy to support grassroots initiatives that secured personal protective equipment (PPE) and raised funds for individuals and organizations.  

“Medicine is absolutely a team sport,” says Wickenheiser. She credits the lessons learned on the ice for her ability to adapt to her new medical career. 

But she hasn’t forgotten the other team sport she loves: hockey. As part of her passion for giving back to the community, Wickenheiser founded the Canadian Tire Wickenheiser Female World Hockey Festival (WickFest). Now in its 10th year, the event hosts more than 1,500 female hockey players from around the world in Calgary and Surrey, B.C., giving them access to skills development and educational sessions on and off the ice. 

“Hayley’s impact extends far beyond being a hockey icon. She has been involved in supporting many causes that provide opportunities for youth to develop new skills and connect with mentors,” says Kelly Jackson, a member of the Empire Club’s Board of Directors and its Award Committee chair.

“Her efforts on the health-care frontline and to raise funds for PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic mirrored the actions of many people across the country who in their own ways gave back to their local communities through support for health-care professionals and vulnerable populations.” 

Award selection 

Wickenheiser was the Award Committee’s first-choice nominee during the selection meetings last fall, says Board President Sal Rabbani. “As this year's winner, she truly exemplifies the values that all Canadians work towards in their daily lives. Dr. Wickenheiser follows her passion and her purpose with devotion, bravery and humility."   

Adds Jackson: “The committee was impressed by her leadership across a wide range of fields from amateur and professional sport to medicine, to supporting the development of the next generation of women hockey players.” 

“What also stood out is her drive and commitment to lifelong learning; her willingness to take risks and break new ground; and her dedication to volunteerism. She has accomplished so much to be inspired by as an athlete, as a doctor and as an engaged Canadian.” 

Wickenheiser is undoubtedly an inspirational role model to people across the world. From young female athletes, to students, to professionals pursuing a career change, she provides an example of the kind of passion and purpose it takes to start something that changes lives for the better.  

Community connection 

“Hayley is the epitome of the term ‘role model.’ I honestly can’t think of many others who would be better for this award,” says Interim Provost and Vice-President (Academic) Penny Werthner, who was dean of the Faculty of Kinesiology when Wickenheiser attended and was later her master’s-program supervisor.

“She is someone who has always been open to learning, being curious, pushing boundaries and thinking about how she can do things better for our society.” 

Werthner says she hopes current and future UCalgary students will take inspiration from Wickenheiser and her dedication to learning and making a difference in our communities. 

“I’m very grateful and honoured to be named a recipient of the 2022 Nation Builder of the Year Award. The Empire Club has provided a forum for progressive dialogue towards positive growth in our country on a wide range of diverse topics,” says Wickenheiser. 

Established in 1903, the Empire Club of Canada, a non-profit organization, is celebrating its 119th season. As Canada's go-to forum for conversations that matter, the club produces more than 40 thought leadership events annually that connect people to ideas and each other. 

The Canadian Tire Wickenheiser Female World Hockey Festival (WickFest) was held in Calgary in November and December 2022 and resumes in Surrey, B.C., from Feb. 2-5. 

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