Hayley Wickenheiser
AP

Hayley Wickenheiser joins Toronto Maple Leafs

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Hayley Wickenheiser, arguably the greatest female hockey player of all time who retired in 2017, joined the Toronto Maple Leafs as assistant director of player development.

The Canadian forward took part in the first five Olympic women’s hockey tournaments — earning four gold medals and one silver — and played softball at the 2000 Sydney Games.

Wickenheiser, 40, played 23 years for the Canadian national team, earning seven world titles and being named Olympic tournament MVP in 2002 and 2006.

She also carried the Canadian flag at the Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremony and recited the Athletes’ Oath at the Vancouver 2010 Opening Ceremony. She was elected to the International Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission in 2014.

Wickenheiser has NHL experience. In 1998 and 1999, she attended the Philadelphia Flyers rookie training camp.

In 2003, she became the first woman to score a goal in a men’s professional league, in Finland’s second division.

She served as a guest coach at a Maple Leafs development camp earlier this year.

“Kind of plays like [two-time U.S. Olympian] John LeClair, only I think she’s a little meaner,” Flyers general manager Bobby Clarke said in 1998, according to the Canadian Press.

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MORE: Four Olympic hockey options laid out by IIHF president

Four Olympic hockey options laid out by IIHF president

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IIHF president René Fasel said he told the International Olympic Committee there are four options for hockey’s participation at the 2022 Winter Olympics, according to TSN’s Gord Miller.

  1. Go back to NHL participation (as in 1998-2014)
  2. Use the 2018 model (participation from all major leagues except NHL)
  3. Use under-23 players (similar to Olympic men’s soccer)
  4. No Olympic hockey

It’s clear which option Fasel favors.

“Having the best on best should be our mission,” Fasel said in an Oilers TV interview last week.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has repeated since last fall that he doubts the league takes a midseason break for the 2022 Winter Games, even with a more favorable host market for hockey growth in China than the recent Winter Games in South Korea.

“I never say never, but I find it hard to envision a scenario where it makes sense, unless, possibly, if the Winter Games are back in North America where the time frame and the attention and the logistics, travel, are a lot different,” Bettman said in November.

The last time a Winter Olympic sport was cut from an Olympic program was in 1960, when Squaw Valley organizers decided against the cost of building a sliding track, meaning bobsled events were not held. The sport returned in 1964 and has been on the Olympic program ever since.

There’s still a long way to go. The decision on NHL participation in the last two Olympics — in for Sochi, out for PyeongChang — was not announced until less than a year before each Winter Games.

“It is too early to get into Beijing, but it remains our goal to bring back a best-on-best Olympic tournament,” Fasel said earlier last week, according to the Edmonton Sun.

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Robb Stauber, coach of U.S. Olympic champion hockey team, takes pro job

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Robb Stauber, the head coach of the U.S. Olympic women’s hockey team, and wife Shivaun Stauber, a former college goalie, will be co-head coaches of the newest NWHL team, the Minnesota Whitecaps, next season.

The club tweeted St. Paul Pioneer Press story confirming the hires, quoting Robb Stauber and reporting he also applied to coach the University of Minnesota’s men’s team. He did not get that job.

Asked if Stauber’s new job means he will not coach the U.S. at the 2019 World Championship, a USA Hockey spokesperson said, “We haven’t announced our 2018-19 national team coaching staff yet..”

The NWHL season typically runs from October to late March, ending just before the world championship tournament. The schedule for 2018-19, the league’s fourth season, has not been announced.

The U.S. women’s national team’s schedule is defined by two major international tournaments — worlds and the Four Nations Cup, the latter scheduled for November.

Stauber previously coached the Whitecaps when they were an independent team in 2015-16, while also serving as a U.S. national team assistant coach.

The following fall, Stauber was promoted from assistant to head coach of the U.S. women’s national team, starting a two-season run that included world and Olympic titles.

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