TORONTO – Hayley Wickenheiser and Danielle Goyette are teammates again in the Toronto Maple Leafs player development department.
One of Wickenheiser’s first moves upon her promotion to Toronto’s senior director of player development was hiring her former linemate and coach as a director in the same department for both the Leafs and the AHL’s Marlies.
The Canadian women’s hockey team alumni won a pair of Olympic gold medals together in 2002 and 2006, as well as six world championship gold together.
When Toronto general manager Kyle Dubas gave Wickenheiser the green light to hire who she wanted, “right away, the first person I thought of was Danielle,” Wickenheiser said.
The 42-year-old from Shaunavon, Sask., joined the Maple Leafs in 2018 as assistant director of player development.
“It goes without saying she’s made significant contributions to the sport, both as a player and then now in her role that she’s had with our team over the last few years” Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said.
“I worked with her a lot in my time with the Marlies when she was working in player development. She really helped bring a lot to the player development program, and I learned a lot from having conversations with her.
“So to have her take a significant step into a leadership position now within the player development program is a huge win for our organization.”
Wickenheiser recently received her medical doctor’s licence and will start a residency in a Toronto hospital.
The combination of Goyette’s hiring and her residency’s time flexibility that she didn’t have in University of Calgary medical school will allow her to do both jobs, she said.
“What I’ve done so far in the last three years in medical school, I think has been much harder than what I’m about to do right now because I’m living in one place,” Wickenheiser said.
Goyette resigned as head coach of the University of Calgary Dinos women’s team after 14 seasons there.
Wickenheiser was a Dino and played for Goyette from 2010 to 2015.
Goyette was also assistant coach of the Canadian Olympic team that won gold with Wickenheiser in 2014.
“What I knew I needed in this role was someone who is incredibly organized off the ice with the ability to manage a lot of moving targets and factors, and someone who understands the development of players physically, psychologically and emotionally, which she’s done as a university coach about the same demographic as the player we work with here,” Wickenheiser said.
“And the ability to step on the ice tomorrow and work with an Auston Matthews or a John Tavares and not it be an intimidating situation, which I think Danielle has also done in the off-season when she’s not working with the Dinos. She’s running groups for NHL players.”
Both women are inductees into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
“Playing together for so long, we went through ups and downs and a lot during our careers,” Goyette said.
“We’ve seen the good side and the bad side of each other. I don’t think we’re going to be surprised by any reaction.
“I kind of know what to expect from Wick. I don’t see anything that’s going to change about the relationship we have right now.”
Wickenheiser is the all-time leader in Canadian women’s hockey team scoring with 168 goals and 211 assists in 276 games.
Goyette ranks fourth 15 years after her retirement with 114 goals and 105 assists in 172 games.
The Maple Leafs also promoted Will Sibley to director of development operations and analysis, while Darryl Belfry will oversee technical development of the club’s players and staff.
Wickenheiser’s appointment to a job that drives Toronto’s future on-ice product, and the decision-making power given to her, breaks ground for women in the NHL.
“What it’s showing is first of all is the Leafs are an incredibly progressive organization,” Wickenheiser said.
“Secondly, the opportunity to be open-minded and look at different perspective. Hockey is a game that we’re probably the last pro sport that’s making these changes and progressions.
“You’re seeing it in other pro sports, basketball and NBA, this is kind of becoming old news. It’s about going after the best person qualified for the job.
“That looks a little different than it did 10 years ago because people’s mindsets have changed.”
Goyette, a 53-year-old from Saint-Nazaire, Que., took over as head coach of the Dinos after retiring as a player in 2007.
The Dinos won a national university championship in 2012 and posted a record of 213-197 with Goyette.
“We got into the Hockey Hall of Fame, me and Hayley, we didn’t think that would happen,” Goyette said.
“Now, we’re getting to the NHL. Everything is changing. I feel lucky that I’m able to open some doors.
“Having women in sport in roles that make a difference, the NHL, for me, it’s pretty amazing to be in that position.”
— Donna Spencer in Calgary and Joshua Clipperton in Toronto contributed to this story.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2021.