Wickenheiser’s Role To Boost Women’s Game

CALGARY — Canadian women’s team captain Hayley Wickenheiser and former Olympic team coach Melody Davidson have major roles in a new program to show other countries the way in women’s hockey. Wickenheiser and Davidson have been named the top player ambassador and coach mentor respectively in an International Ice Hockey Federation project to create more parity in the sport.

Coaching mentors and player ambassadors from the top four countries of Canada, the U.S., Sweden and Finland have been assigned to assist coaches and players in nine other countries for the next two and a half years.

The point of the program is for players and coaches from countries with more developed women’s hockey programs to be a sounding board and source of information for their counterparts trying to close the gap on them.Former Canadian Olympic team player Gina Kingsbury, for example, has been assigned to players in France, and Finnish defenceman Emma Laaksonen will be a resource for players from Kazakhstan.

Wickenheiser is the go-between for the athlete-ambassadors and the IIHF. She’ll provide guidance and direction to Kingsbury and Laaksonen as they do the same for players in the countries to which they’ve been assigned. “To me, it’s the first significant thing the IIHF has really done to help women’s hockey on a large scale,” Wickenheiser said Thursday in Calgary. “This is a good thing.

Coaching mentors include Sweden’s Peter Elander, who will assist coaches in Germany, and Canada’s 1998 Olympic coach Shannon Miller, who was assigned to Russia. Davidson, who coached Canada to back-to-back Olympic gold medals in 2006 and 2010, will co-ordinate all the coaching mentors and will also work with the Norwegian women. “It’s just providing other countries the opportunity to know we’ve been where they are and we survived,” Davidson said. “We’re trying to help them do the same thing.”