In the world of professional hockey, women have it slightly more difficult than men.
They make just a fraction of the money that men do, meaning that they must have another job on the side in order to support themselves.
Hayley Wickenheiser is arguably the best women's hockey player of all time, and even at the very top, Hayley was pursuing her Master's Degree while playing professionally to prepare herself for life after hockey.
All this while raising children and captaining Team Canada to multiple Olympic gold medals!
Original story posted here.
In some cases, maybe most cases, honorary diplomas and degrees are given out for no other reason than a person’s accomplishments in athletics or entertainment.
But you might not find a more deserving recipient than Hayley Wickenheiser, who received an honorary diploma from NorQuest College on Thursday.
The four-time Olympic gold medalist is world renown as one of the great female hockey players of all time, but even more impressive is a lifelong commitment to education that continues to this day.
While balancing motherhood and full-time responsibilities to national women’s hockey program, Wickenheiser continually chipped away at her school, eventually earning a Masters Degree in science from the University of Calgary at 37.
She is now setting her sights on becoming a doctor.
“I knew I was going to need something to fall back on after hockey is done because we weren’t making millions of dollars like NHL players are,” said Wickenheiser, now 39. “I think women players have to think a lot more about life after hockey, but that’s a positive thing for your overall mental health and well-being because you are forced to have that pause and think: ‘What is my next life going to look like.’”
It has the potential to be just as impressive and inspiring as her last life. But it’s been a long and grinding road to get here.
“It took me 16 years to get my undergrad degree because I was raising my son, who is graduating from Grade 12 next week,” she said. “It’s funny how time flies. I chipped away at it over the years but I always knew it would be a priority because of how I was raised.”
Wickenheiser says the desire and courage to go back to school was passed down from her mother, Marilyn, who paved the way many years earlier. Seeing her mom return to university after taking time off to have three children was all the inspiration Hayley needed to do it herself.
“I was eight years old my mom went back to school to upgrade,” said Wickenheiser, whose parents are both teachers and always stressed the value of education. “She actually moved away to go to school in Regina and we were living in Shaunavon, which is about a four hour drive. She lived in residence and became a student again in her late 30s.
“I remember vividly when she graduated, watching her walk across the stage. She was probably the oldest student in the class.
“We had been through the separation of her living in dorms and all the stuff she had to endure to help give us a better life. I’ll never forget that moment. Cheering, being so excited.
“So when I graduated with my undergrad at the University of Calgary I made my son come to the ceremony because I wanted him to see it, too, me walking across that stage.
“I went for that reason. I probably wouldn’t have gone if it was just for me, but it was important for me to have him see that.”
Juggling school, hockey and a son was never easy, but the rewards speak for themselves. And in the end it will make for a stunning resume given that the list of mothers in this world who are also doctors and Olympic gold medalists is probably very, very short.
“It just came down to time management,” said Wickenheiser, who wants to work in emergency medicine and was job shadowing in Calgary ERs while still playing for Canada. “Being a student was actually good for my hockey career. I didn’t ruminate on hockey 24 hours a day. School gave me a nice positive distraction.
“I found it pretty manageable, I just had to cut out a lot of other things in my life. It came down to my family, hockey and school. I really enjoyed that. Being a student athlete is the greatest job ever. You don’t get paid for it but it’s a great lifestyle.”
Wickenheiser has been honoured by schools before, but says this one is special because of the NorQuest demographics. She sees a lot of herself in the students there.
“This one is unique in the type of school that it is, the type of students who go there. It caters to students who are upgrading or new Canadians, single moms, that type of thing.
“So when the President, Jodi Abbott, reached out to me it was intriguing to me given that I’ve sort of struggled to do what I’m doing.
“I think for a lot of people at NorQuest, getting a diploma, walking across the stage, it will be unimaginable to have this moment. I empathize with that, I respect that a lot. It takes a lot to go back later in life.”