Hayley Wickenheiser honoured prior to Oilers, Flames game

It was a fitting tribute to one of the best players ever to wear a Canada hockey sweater.

Hayley Wickenheiser, who led Canada to four Winter Olympic gold medals and a silver during her distinguished career, was honoured during a special pre-game ceremony prior to puck drop between the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place on Saturday.

The 38-year-old from Shaunavon, Sask., who announced her retirement from hockey on Friday, has lived in Calgary since she was 12 but has been a life-long Oilers fan, making the game between the two Alberta-based rivals the ideal place for a tribute in her eyes.

“I want to thank the Oilers organization for allowing me this moment to say goodbye to Canadians as a hockey player,” she said. “I grew up idolizing the Oilers and it seems fitting that I would say goodbye here — at an Edmonton versus Calgary game — representing the two cities that have given so much to my career.”

‘The female Gordie Howe’

Among those joining Wickenheiser on the ice during the ceremony were Oilers legend Wayne Gretzky, former Team Canada coach Danielle Goyette, Wickenheiser’s first hockey coach Wally Kozak, parents Tom and Marilyn, and son, Noah.

“This is so special,” Gretzky said. “You have touched so many lives, including so many young girls who may one day go on to win gold medals of their own.”

“You played with heart, desire, finesse, speed, skill, and the greatest player who ever lived, I think he would be happy if I called you the female Gordie Howe.”