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  • "I’ve been around the NHL 20 years, I’ve trained with the best in the game. I’m confident I can help them get better or tell them what it takes."
By Michael Blinn
August 23, 2018

The Toronto Maple Leafs are continuing their offseason makeover, adding some new perspectives to the front office, including an all-time great.

On Thursday morning, the Leafs announced the additions of Hayley Wickenheiser as the club's assistant director of player development and Noelle Needham and Victor Carneiro as amateur scouts, while naming Stephane Robidas director of player development and elevating Scott Pellerin to senior director of player development.

The most notable of the moves is Wickenheiser, the all-time leading scorer for the Canadian national women's team, as well as the top point-getter at the Olympics. She owns gold medals from four straight games, 2002-2014, and was named to the Order of Canada in 2011.

Despite retiring from playing in January 2017 after 23 years on the ice, Wickenheiser has remained in the game, even joining the Leafs as a guest coach during development camp in June.

"I'm really excited about the opportunity," Wickenheiser said. "I think what the Leafs are doing is really forward-thinking."

She'll be stationed in Calgary while finishing her medical degree, keeping a close eye on Toronto's prospects in the WHL.

It's all part of the bigger plan for freshly-minted Toronto GM Kyle Dubas, who took over for the departed Lou Lamoriello at the beginning of the offseason and brought in prized free agent John Tavares. For Dubas, it's all about bringing in different perspectives.

"Research shows that the more diverse your organization, the better your decision making, the better your operation," Dubas said. "I think that if you're only hiring white males—and I'm saying that as a white male—you're probably leaving a lot on the table in terms of where your organization [is going] and how it can think and how it can evolve and develop."

Having a mind like Wickenheiser's is a boon to the organization. She not only starred for Team Canada, but also attended the Philadelphia Flyers' rookie camp in 1998 and 1999, as well as became the first woman to score in a men's pro league with Salamat in Finland during the 2003 season.

"I’ve been around the NHL 20 years, I’ve trained with the best in the game," Wickenheiser said. "I’m confident I can help them get better or tell them what it takes."

The Maple Leafs share that opinion, knowing that they've done their due diligence in the hire—that it's a person of Wickenheiser's caliber made it all the easier.

"When we go through any process of hiring people to add to our program, we're looking for the best people period," Dubas said, "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."

Wickenheiser's familiarity with the team certainly helped, and it helped the Leafs' brass get a look at what she could bring to the franchise.

"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," Dubas said.

"The biggest reason I was intrigued about this role is that Kyle was interested in me, not just to hire a woman but to hire someone who could do the job," she 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.

While Wickenheiser is part of a fresh outlook for the organization, she'll be bringing the same attitude she did when racking up the goals and assists during her playing days.

"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."

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