Jayna Hefford: CWHL Legend is the Wonder Woman of Canadian Hockey

Article by Mark Staffieri, The Bleacher Report

As the Brampton Hockey Club prepares for the 2012-13 CWHL season, the one guarantee the club has is that Jayna Hefford will be ready.

As every autumn approaches, the stoic Hefford has a renewed enthusiasm for the game. The first-ever Most Valuable Player in the history of the Canadian Women?۪s Hockey League, Hefford makes history every time she graces the ice.

While players such as Hayley Wickenheiser, Angela Ruggiero and Meghan Agosta are household names, Hefford quietly goes on, conducting herself with great alacrity. Fans that gather in the frozen rinks to see her play recognize that the true honour is to witness a living legend.

Hailing from the Canadian hockey mecca of Kingston, Ontario, she has enthralled fans with her skills for nearly two decades. From humble beginnings with the Kingston Kodiaks, to being an All-OUA selection with the Toronto Varsity Blues women’s ice hockey program, to playing for the Canadian National Team since 1997, Hefford has assembled a career that is the envy of players worldwide.

In many ways, her career has run parallel to the growth of women?۪s hockey.

Regardless of the circumstances, Hefford brings a reassuring presence to the ice.

Three moments in her career are testament to that.

In 2000, Hefford scored the game-tying goal in the gold-medal game of the 2000 IIHF World Championships to force overtime.

Though her team suffered from 13 penalties in the gold-medal game of the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Games, Hefford logged the gold-medal-winning goal.

The 200th game of her Hockey Canada career was contested on New Year?۪s Day 2010 in Ottawa, Ontario. As a preview of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, Hefford?۪s efforts foreshadowed what was to come. Scoring the shootout goal versus US goaltender Jessie Vetter, she would enjoy a third gold medal a few months later in Vancouver.

When Jennifer Botterill retired from the Canadian Team in 2011, many fans started a grassroots campaign online to encourage Hockey Canada to rightfully retire her number. Although there are many other players that are worthy of the honour as well (Wickenhesier, Cassie Campbell, Geraldine Heaney, Kim St. Pierre), once Jayna Hefford retires, she will also merit consideration.

It would only be fitting to have her number 16 raised to the rafters.

Like the Baltimore Orioles without Cal Ripken Jr., or the Edmonton Oilers without Wayne Gretzky, when Jayna Hefford retires, the Brampton club will never be the same. Having played with the franchise for over a dozen years, a Clarkson Cup would bring her entry into the Triple Gold Club for Women (a player with Winter Games gold, World Championship gold and a Clarkson Cup).

Although she still waits for the elusive Clarkson Cup, many more honors are sure to follow. The Order of Hockey in Canada shall one day be bestowed upon her, while her impressive body of work will culminate with membership into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

For a generation of young women that found the surroundings of the frozen ice surface an inviting place of comfort and equality, they certainly owe a debt of gratitude to a groundbreaking player like Jayna Hefford.