VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Hayley Wickenheiser was named in her fourth Olympic ice hockey team on Monday when Canada unveiled an experienced lineup that will bid for a third consecutive gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Wickenheiser, who helped Canada land gold in 2002 and 2006 and also to six world championship titles, will captain a squad including 14 players who have competed in at least one Olympics.
“Congratulations to the 21 players on this tremendous accomplishment,” said Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson when the team was named in Calgary.
“We know our players will bring pride to all Canadians.”
Canada have played in every gold-medal game since women’s hockey became part of the Olympic program at the 1998 Nagano Games where they took silver. They grabbed gold in Salt Lake City and then successfully defending their crown in Turin.
Jennifer Botterill, Jayna Hefford and Becky Kellar will also be playing in their fourth Olympics but it is Wickenheiser, widely regarded as one of the world’s top players and a pioneer of the sport, who is the squad’s undisputed leader.
Named one of Sports Illustrated’s Top 25 Toughest Athletes in the World last year, Wickenheiser earned her place by playing with and against men in professional leagues in Finland and Sweden.
The 31-year-old forward became the first female hockey player to score a point in a men’s professional game while representing Kirkkonummen Salamat in the Finnish second division and has played division one men’s hockey in Sweden.
Wickenheiser was also a member of Canada’s Olympic softball team at the 2000 Sydney Games.
“Our country is fortunate to have unbelievable depth in hockey and this is no different in the women’s game,” said head coach Melody Davidson in a statement.
Editing by Tony Jimenez