Jayna Hefford is one of Canada’s most decorated women’s ice hockey players, winning four Olympic gold medals (plus scoring the golden goal at the 2002 Winter Olympics!) as well as being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018 and receiving the Order of Canada in 2019. Even with her busy schedule (she’s been the interim commissioner of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League up to last year), Jayna still had the time to appear in our recent Sonnet commercials – plus answer some questions for us!
Here’s what she has to say about her playing career, her work outside of the rink, and how to make hockey accessible to everyone:
What’s been the biggest highlight of your career?
Having competed with the national team for 17 years, I had many highlights. I think the most memorable would be the 2002 Olympic Gold medal victory. After losing the gold medal in 1998, and then playing for gold again 4 years later against Team USA, it was a great moment for our country. We had not beat the American team all season (we had lost 8 games in a row to them), and then getting the victory in the USA (Salt Lake City), it was such a proud moment to help Canada win its first gold medal in women’s hockey.
How has life changed since being inducted into the HHOF in 2018?
Life hasn’t changed too much - it was really just a great celebration for my friends and family. It’s always nice to be recognized in that way.
What do you think the legacy of the CWHL will be?
The CWHL was a very successful 12 years for women’s hockey. It will be an important part or our history. Over the course of my playing career, I played in three different leagues COWHL, NWHL (the original) and CWHL - when you take a step back from it, each version was a little better than the last. Hopefully, the next iteration of a women’s league will be one that is sustainable for many years to come.
What is the PWHPA’s mission?
The mission of the PWHPA is to bring awareness to the need for a long-term, viable professional women’s hockey league. The players have played in leagues that have been referred to as ‘professional’, but they don’t live up to the way professional athletes should be supported. A viable league would have the infrastructure and resources to allow the athletes to succeed. A truly professional league will have adequate facilities and ice times, travel that supports the athletes recovery needs, equipment provided, marketing resources, television coverage, and salaries that would allow the athletes to be hockey players first - to name a few. Through supporting the women and providing visibility, we believe we can keep many girls in sport longer, so that these young girls can benefit from all the great qualities that sport provides.
What are some ways that people can support women’s hockey?
The easiest thing for someone to do is come to a game. The product is incredibly entertaining, and the athletes are great ambassadors and role models. Once people see the game live once, most will come back again.
How can we encourage more girls to get into playing hockey?
Young girls need to be able to see women playing the game. Visibility is key to keeping girls in the game. Young girls are smart enough at a very young age to realize what is a realistic dream for them.
What advice would you give to girls who want to have a career in hockey?
I would tell them to keep working hard. The PWHPA is working every day to ensure that the future for any girl who wants to play the game will be bright. It’s the best sport in the world!
What do you think needs to change in the world of hockey to make it more accessible for everyone?
There is a lot of talk about inclusivity - but, it has to be more than talk. I think there are a lot of people that are just fans of the sport - men’s, women’s, para, etc. By investing in more diverse areas of the sport, the fan base for the sport is growing. Many studies have shown that diverse leadership can provide a huge benefit to organizations, hopefully we will continue to see hockey become more accessible for all.