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Canada's leading star

Two-time MVP Wickenheiser isn't ready to slow down

Posted: Monday February 20, 2006 8:09PM; Updated: Tuesday February 21, 2006 11:21AM
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Hayley Wickenheiser
Despite a broken wrist, Hayley Wickenheiser still led the tournament with five points and 12 assists.
David E. Klutho/SI
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TURIN, Italy -- Hayley Wickenheiser has won her second gold medal, was named MVP for the second straight Olympics and led the tournament in scoring. So what does she plan to do next?

"I'm going to take my son to Disney World," Wickenheiser said with a laugh. "Really. True story."

After Canada beat Sweden 4-1 in the final, the world's best female hockey player rushed the ice and flung her helmet and stick into the air, giving her teammates bear hugs. She skated over to the bench and picked up her adopted six-year-old son, Noah, to join the celebration. The exhilaration of winning a third straight Olympic title in her native country has Wickenheiser, 27, already thinking ahead to the 2010 Games. "I'll be 31 then, and that's not really old," she said. "I think to play and finish in [Vancouver] would be fabulous."

Despite Canada's dominance in its five matches, the week was a trying one for Wickenheiser, who broke her right wrist. During the team's second skate session, the star forward collided with defenseman Becky Kellar and jammed her hand. "I was in a lot of pain, and I had to get it frozen," Wickenheiser said. "When you're on adrenaline, it doesn't really bother you.... I obviously tried to pass a lot more than shoot in the last few games." Despite the broken wrist, Wickenheiser still led the tournament with five points and 12 assists, including two assists in the gold-medal match. When she was 19, Wickenheiser put up eight points behind the team's leading scorer, Danielle Goyette, who had nine. At the Salt Lake City Games, Wickenheiser tied Goyette for the lead with 10 points. Said defenseman Gillian Ferrari, "She can still shoot better than me with a broken hand. How many people can play like that?"

Even fewer women can do what Wickenheiser did when she became the first woman to score a goal in a men's pro league. From 2002-04, Wickenheiser played in the Finnish men's league for HC Salamat, a team co-owned by the Mighty Ducks' Teemu Selanne. "Playing in Finland made me a better player. It made me more patient," said Wickenheiser, who lives in Calgary with her son and boyfriend Thomas Pacina. "The way I approach the game is a little less stressed. I feel like the game is sort of easy out there."

All week Canada made it look like child's play as the team rolled through Italy (16-0) and Russia (12-0), causing U.S. defenseman Angela Ruggiero to complain that the Canadians were running up the score on purpose. Sweden was the only team to score against the Canucks, during an 8-1 blowout and in the final. Canada came into the tournament as the favorite, and when Sweden shocked the hockey world by beating the U.S. in the semifinals, the pressure to defend the title further increased.

"For us, it's like gold or nothing," Wickenheiser said. "There's only one medal to be won. I'm happy we can land in Canada with people smiling and supporting us instead of letting them down."

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