Hayley Wickenheiser's impact felt by Maple Leafs: 'She's really nailed it'

With the Maple Leafs on the road in Las Vegas, Travis Dermott won’t be at the Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony Monday night to show support and admiration for teammate and hockey legend Hayley Wickenheiser.

But if he could, he would be. In his shirsey and everything.

Last week, if it weren’t for the fact that the Maple Leafs were travelling later that day, Dermott says he would have been coincidentally honouring one of his coaches with a baby blue No. 22 Hall of Fame induction t-shirt with “Wickenheiser” across the back.

But because the Maple Leafs were, which meant that Dermott had to be in a suit that morning before taking a plane to Long Island, we had to take his word for it instead.

“For her to be here and helping us,” Dermott said, “it’s amazing.”

With medical school taking up most of her time as she continues to transition into her post-playing career, Wickenheiser isn’t present in the Maple Leafs’ day-to-day in her role as the assistant director of player development.

But when dealing with the final stages of his rehabilitation process back in training camp, and in Newfoundland largely limited to one-on-one sessions with the development team, Dermott had the opportunity to spend some meaningful time working with and learning from Wickenheiser.

“It was awesome for me,” Dermott said. “Obviously the injury wasn’t that positive, but I took a lot of positives from it. And being able to work with Hayley was one of them.”

Dermott said he really didn’t know what to expect before those sessions with the four-time Olympic gold medallist, but discovered a refreshing approach to instruction when the two hit the ice together.

“Hayley is so open-minded,” he said. “(She would) ask us what we want to work on. Then she’ll have her ideas on what she wants to work on, and then we incorporate everything together, which was awesome.

“She’s really nailed it that way.”

In many ways, the Maple Leafs have done the same with the hiring of Wickenheiser, and their general mindfulness to incorporate a wide range of opinions, backgrounds and experiences within their front office.

The organization ranked well ahead of the curve (albeit a generally disappointing curve) when compared to the remaining 30 NHL hockey operation departments when measured in terms of gender diversity, according to an article in The Athletic.

Dermott sees the benefit, importance and the impact this progressiveness could have on fans, and especially young girls, to see women like Wickenheiser — not to mention a scout like Noelle Needham — working in jobs at the height of their industry.

“I’m sure (they) are excited and inspired to see that,” he said. “Hopefully it drives them to keep working at it.”

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