My first three Momterviews have been skewed a little towards journalists (which gives away where my interests lie) but this time around I’m shaking things up and bringing you a momterview with an entirely different type of public figure: an athlete. Not just any athlete, mind you. This woman has won three Olympic golds plus a silver on Canada’s women’s hockey team, as well as numerous other championships. And hockey isn’t her only specialty – she’s also an elite softball player, and served as a CBC softball analyst during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. If that’s not enough, Sports Illustrated has named her one of the 25 Toughest Athletes In The World.

Oh yeah, and she’s a parent, too. Hayley has been mom to Noah, son of her partner Tomas, since he was only a month old. She has since adopted him, with his birth mother’s consent.*{see note below}

Impressed yet? Sit back, relax, and learn a little bit about Canadian hero Hayley Wickenheiser.

This Mom: When you were young {Hayley grew up in Shaunavon, Saskatchewan), you were usually the only girl on your hockey teams. What sorts of lessons did you learn from that?

Hayley Wickenheiser: Well, I learned at a young age not to listen to the critical opinion of others and to have a thick skin. {Can she teach me? I’m 33 and still have trouble with this.} It also taught me that if you really love something you sometimes have to make sacrifices to do it, and that’s what I did.

TM: What do you say to parents who wonder whether their girls should be playing hockey with the boys, or on all-girls teams?

HW: I don’t have a preference. It really depends where you live and what type of kid you have. Some girls have no choice but to play with the boys, like I did when I was a kid, but now in many urban areas there are girls’ leagues with options for different levels and abilities. I think some girls need more of a challenge, and sometimes playing with the boys gives them that, so I just tell the parents wherever your daughter is the happiest. There’s no sense playing on boys’ teams if they’re not going to get any ice time, so you want them where they’re going to be playing a lot and having fun. That’s the most important thing when you’re a kid.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Nash

TM: In your career, you’ve had so many incredible wins. Is there any one moment that stands out in your mind?

HW: I think the win in Salt Lake in ’02 will always stand out in my mind as one of the best wins ever for me, and obviously winning in Vancouver in your home country is really special. {I guess it doesn’t get much better than Olympic gold medals!}

TM: What about your lowest career moment?

HW: ’98 when we lost the gold medal to the U.S. For sure. {Sounds slightly more disappointing than my personal athletic low point: when I took the knee out of my new track pants playing in a teacher volleyball game. Why did I have to dive for that ball? So unlike me.}

TM: Obviously you have to stay in great physical shape since hockey is a demanding sport, but do you have couch potato days and junk-food indulgences like the rest of us?

HW: Oh, yeah, I do. I think I try to live a pretty disciplined life, I try to eat clean, and I don’t drink all that often, I’ll maybe have a glass of wine here or there, but definitely some days I just eat whatever I want, and my guilty pleasure is chocolate of any sort. I love chocolate! I think it’s healthy to have days where you don’t really track what you’re eating all the time.

TM: I get the impression that you’re just as busy off the ice as you are on. What’s a typical day like for you when it’s not hockey season?

HW: It’s busy! A typical day would be: I wake up, go to the gym, work out, do some errands, do the kind of thing I’m doing with you right now, come back and spend time with my son. The rest of the day I just carry on with life, whether it’s making food or doing laundry, all of the things that people regularly do.

TM: I read that you play the piano. Did you take lessons as a kid?

HW: I did, yeah. My parents made us take lessons until Grade 7, and then we were able to choose whether to quit or not. I opted out, {laughs}, but to this day I can still pick it up and I can play. I’m not great! My son now takes piano lessons so that’s really exciting.

TM: I’ve also heard that you love to read. Do you have a good book on the go right now?

HW: I’m reading Bill Clinton’s book called “Giving”. It’s good. I spoke after he did at an event and he signed a book for me, so I figured I’d give it a shot!

TM: You’ve completed a couple of years of your Bachelor of Science degree {from the University of Calgary}. Do you see yourself going back to finish it?

HW: Yes, I am this year, actually. I’m going to go back and take some courses and try to finish it off, yeah.

TM: You also support several charitable organizations. Can you speak a bit about them?

HW: The main ones I work with are Right To Play, which helps children through sport and play, Dreams Take Flight which is a local charity in Calgary {providing dream trips for challenged kids}, and Spread The Net which is with Belinda Stronach and it provides nets for malaria in Africa. I work with KidSport as well, which helps kids play sports who otherwise couldn’t afford to, whether it’s equipment or fees. {These few lines do not even come close to communicating what an incredible humanitarian Hayley is.}

TM: So Noah is ten now. So far what would you say is the hardest phase of parenting?

HW: Well, he’s in Grade 5, and now seems to be the hardest time really, because he’s developing opinions about things and attitudes, and he’s at that pre-puberty stage so it’s certainly a challenge. You know, mom is cool, but then sometimes mom’s not cool, and I have to learn sort of to not push sometimes when I want to spend time with him but he wants to be with his friends.It’s different.

TM: I was hoping to hear that it gets easier, not harder!

HW: Well, it’s different because when they’re younger they need you all the time, but as they get older they still need you, even if it’s not actually your presence, they still need to know that you’re there. It’s important for them to know that when they’re getting older and forming opinions, and even if they don’t physically want you there, they still need you.

TM: Where do you usually go for parenting advice?

HW: Oh, I go to my mom and dad, or friends who have kids. People with older children who have been through things.

Hayley and Noah in Turin, 2006
From Archives

TM: I’ve read that Noah thinks hockey is boring! Is that right?

HW: He would probably tell you that, yeah. He doesn’t see much value in playing hockey but he likes to be at the rink and play Legos or read a book while I’m on the ice, so he’s been a very good boy over the years being trucked from rink to rink, but no, he wouldn’t choose hockey as his number one sport.

TM: How does he feel about your ‘celebrity status’?

HW: I think sometimes it’s cool and sometimes it’s really annoying, he would say, depending on where we are. I think for the most part he looks at it like he doesn’t care if we win a gold medal for a sport, he just wants to play Lego. He doesn’t think I’m much of a celebrity.

TM:  My blog is called This Mom Loves, so my final question is – other than your family, and I’m guessing hockey, what are some other things you love?

HW: I love being outside. I love doing monotonous jobs, working on the family farm in Saskatchewan, physical work like that, sort of ‘moving meditation’, I love all sorts of music, and I love falling asleep to movies. I don’t get through many of them, I fall asleep to most of them!

TM: I think that comes with being a mom! I make it through a lot less of of them than I used to, too!

Hayley shows off her gold medal to her farm friends

To learn more, check out Hayley’s website, visit her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter!

* I’m not much of an investigative journalist. I didn’t even like asking about this (but I had to fact-check), and I hesitated to even mention it here. I hate the whole “Nicole Kidman has two adopted children” type of writing, but I finally decided that Hayley’s road to motherhood was interesting and relevant enough to merit a mention.

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