Canadian women's hockey star Hayley Wickenheiser retires

CALGARY, Alberta (AP) Hayley Wickenheiser has retired from hockey after 23 years on Canada's women's team.

The 38-year-old Wickenheiser, from Shaunavon, Saskatchewan, announced her retirement Friday, and plans to enter medical school.

''It has been the greatest honor of my life to play for Canada,'' Wickenheiser said. ''I'll miss it.''

Wickenheiser is Canada's career leader with 168 goals and 211 assists in 276 games. She won four Olympic gold medals and seven world titles and was the most valuable player of the Olympic women's hockey tournaments in 2002 and 2006. She competed in six Olympics, also playing softball for Canada in the 2000 Summer Games.

''It would have been great to play in one more,'' she said. ''The more I thought about it, it would have been too long to wait. It's a tough decision, but it's going to be the right one.''

She was the first woman to score a goal in men's professional hockey when she played in Europe.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent out a congratulatory tweet to Wickenheiser.

''You've inspired a generation of hockey players to play hard and dream big,'' Trudeau wrote. ''Congrats on an incredible career.''

The number of registered female players in Canada went from 16,000 in her first year on the national team to almost 87,000 today.

Bob Nicholson, who was Hockey Canada's president and chief executive officer during most of Wickenheiser's career, said she played a big role in giving ''girls the dreams that boys had.''

''Her record speaks for itself winning so many gold medals, but in years to come, the biggest memory will be how she inspired so many girls to play the game,'' said Nicholson, now CEO of Oilers Entertainment Group. ''She always was harder on herself than any of her teammates and pushed herself to excellence.''

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