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Wickenheiser holds clinics for homebound hockey players on Instagram Live

Hockey Hall of Famer offers training points, health tips online during pandemic

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / Staff Writer

Even Hall of Famers have to adapt sometimes.

With all of her hockey pucks stuck at the rink and inaccessible, Hayley Wickenheiser turned to other objects as she spent Wednesday afternoon stickhandling around her basement home gym, showing off her skills, while trying to instruct anyone who tuned into her 50-minute Instagram Live story on some of the finer points of training and practicing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tweet from @wick_22: Are your kids going bananas? Missing hockey? At 3 pm est today I���ll be doing Instagram live @hchickwick. Some drills, skills, tips and questions. Bring your stick, a ball or two, band if you have and a towel along! #covidconvos #instagramlive

But there was another message she wanted to get out too. 

"We all have a role to play," Wickenheiser said by phone on Wednesday. "My role is multi-faceted. I'm in medicine. I've seen what's been going on on the frontlines. I'm also a hockey player, work for the [Toronto Maple] Leafs. There's sort of a two-angle approach here. Through sport and fun, I think we can educate a lot of people on what's going on out there. I feel like it's a way I can help at a time like this when we are all just stuck at our houses and we can't really communicate. This is the best way to do it."

It was the second time that Wickenheiser, the four-time Olympic gold medalist for Canada, Hockey Hall of Famer and Toronto Maple Leafs assistant director of player development, had taken to Instagram Live to help house-bound hockey players make use of their time and their space to get better while many are self-isolating due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

She plans on doing one each week on Wednesday at 3 p.m. Eastern. 

The idea sprung out of the Canadian Tire Wickenheiser World Female Hockey Festival, affectionately known as WickFest, the tournament that Wickenheiser holds annually in Calgary and Surrey, B.C. This year, the 10th for WickFest, she had worked with more than 7,000 kids, and in conversation with some friends and family, she realized that a lot of those kids were home, their parents anxious about how to occupy their time. 

Wickenheiser figured she could help. 

"I just thought I've got a little bit of time here and a space that I could educate a few people with skills and tips and tricks and stuff," Wickenheiser said. "I thought, why not do it?"

And, in the process, she could continue to get the word out about social distancing, about staying at home, about helping to flatten the curve and protect the medical community of which she is a member. 

"Try to get people to stay at home -- and stay sane," said Wickenheiser, who is in her final year of medical school at the University of Calgary.

Up to 200 people tuned in, watching as she started with instruction in proper hand washing. 

Wickenheiser demonstrated the correct method, before moving on to more hockey-related instruction, beginning by juggling three balls of different weights. 

"Juggling opens the eyes," she said on the Instagram Live. "It helps your brain. It opens your brain."

She moved on to band workouts, side steps with the bands over the knees and at the ankle; A-skips; hip rotations, forward and backward; crossovers; pull-ups. 

Wickenheiser then held up a bucket. She advised those at home to fill it with rice and practice rotating their hands in the bucket "until they fall off," or for between 30 seconds and one minute in order to strengthen wrists and improve their shots. 

"This," she said, "is the rice bucket challenge."

She demonstrated some stickhandling, while answering questions that fans submitted, adding in shout-outs to a couple of former teammates who tuned in, Cheryl Pounder and Natalie Spooner. 

While doing the demonstration, Wickenheiser said she's trying to be cognizant that kids might be stuck at home with little space and little equipment, but that they can still get in some hockey-related activities. Or, if not, just get some physical activity in, raise their heart rates. 

It helps, she said, with the anxiety of the unknown right now. 

At the end of the Instagram Live, Wickenheiser addressed some questions about COVID-19, specifically taking the time to talk to those watching about masks, including the N95 masks that have been in such short supply among medical workers. She talked about hand washing again, about not touching faces, about staying home.

She wanted to get a message out -- and not just one about hockey skills and drills. 

"I try to make it interactive, informative and hopefully educate you a little bit about how important -- please -- it is to social distance," Wickenheiser told the viewers. "So if your friends, your family, you've got people that aren't, you've got to call them out. You've got to hold their feet to the fire. You've got to say, we've got to social distance. Because you might - you are - saving lives that you don't even know."

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