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Wickenheiser hired by Maple Leafs in player development role

Four-time Olympic women's hockey gold medalist with Canada was guest coach for Toronto this year

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Hayley Wickenheiser, a four-time Olympic gold medalist with Canada and one of the greatest players in women's hockey history, was hired by the Toronto Maple Leafs as assistant director of player development Thursday.

Wickenheiser, 40, who retired Jan. 13, 2017 after a 23-year playing career, was a guest coach at Maple Leafs development camp this year.

"The biggest reason I was intrigued about this role is that [Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas] was interested in me, not just to hire a woman but to hire someone who could do the job," Wickenheiser said. "I feel pretty confident in my abilities to be in this role, and that I belong and can handle myself with anyone. For me, it's that I have a job to do. I have a role to take on to help the Leafs try to win and that's how I'm approaching it, no different than I did when I was a player."

A seven-time world champion, Wickenheiser helped Canada win an Olympic gold medal in 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014, was the most valuable player in the 2002 and 2006 tournaments, and was Canada's flag-bearer at the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Sochi Olympics. She retired as the leader in goals, assists and points for Canada's women's national team and is the leading scorer in the women's Olympic hockey tournament.

"When we go through any process of hiring people to add to our program, we're looking for the best people period, and in this case, I thought for the roles we were looking for, Hayley was certainly the best person to fill that role because of her expertise in hockey and her experience of being an elite, elite player at every level of hockey," Dubas said. "Hayley was at our development camp, and getting to know her and in talking with her, I just thought the way she thinks about hockey and life could be a massive benefit to our player development program and our program in general.

"She has a greater ability in that she was one of the great players to ever play the game. She can connect with our players on that level as well because that's unique experience that she can bring."

Wickenheiser attended rookie training camp with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1998 and 1999. In 2003, she became the first woman to score a goal in a men's professional league, playing for Salamat in Finland's third-highest league. She played softball for Canada at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and was named to the Order of Canada in 2011.

The Maple Leafs also promoted two former NHL players. Stephane Robidas was named director of player development, and Scott Pellerin was elevated to senior director of player development. Noelle Needham and Victor Carneiro were hired as scouts.

"I'm really excited about the opportunity," Wickenheiser said. "I think what the Leafs are doing is really forward-thinking. I think the player development department under Scott Pellerin and Stephane Robidas is as good as anyone in the League, and I'm really excited to work with those guys and help the young players and the organization moving forward."

NHL.com correspondent Dave McCarthy contributed to this report.

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