Athletes of Kingston: Jayna Hefford

By Ian MacAlpine

Kingston’s Jayna Hefford is one of Canada’s most decorated hockey players, male or female.

It’s hard to beat five Olympic medals, four of them gold and in 12 World Championship appearances. She’s won seven gold medals and five silvers. In an 18-year career she has 157 goals and 291 points in 267 international games.

Retired from playing since 2015, Hefford has stayed in the game as a coach, league administrator, hockey camp director and once in a while, a hockey mom. 

Hefford was born in Trenton but moved to Kingston with her family when she was young.

As a child she was wanted to play hockey but the opportunities for girls and women in Kingston in the late 1980s and 1990s were few and far between. So Hefford played both boys and girls hockey and eventually her dominant skill led her to Olympic glory and all those world championship medals.

In women’s professional hockey she led the Brampton Thunder of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League to three straight Clarkson Cup appearances and in 2008-09 she won the Angela James Bowl as the CWHL’s leading scorer. The CWHL now awards the Jayna Hefford Trophy to the league’s most outstanding player as voted on by the players.

Hefford is currently the commissioner of the CWHL which is currently on hiatus while Hefford and other board members try to make the women’s game more sustainable.

“It’s been a really good learning process I’d like to see the game from a lot of different angles and it’s been an interesting transition and I’m grateful to still be part of the game and I’m obviously passionate about it,” Hefford said during an interview about the various chapters of her hockey life.

“It’s been a big learning process but I can also say I’ve never been more optimistic for the future of the women’s game.” She said of the CWHL issues. “It’s been a challenging time certainly and difficult in certain ways but at the same time it’s a time for change for the sport.”

Women’s professional sports including women’s hockey needs more infrastructure and financial support behind it for it to be viable.

Hefford was only the sixth female hockey player to be named to the Hockey Hall of Fame and recently was also inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame with another Kingston athlete, marathon swimmer Vicki Keith Munro.

Hefford said making the hockey hall in 2018 is the pinnacle of her hockey career and being named to the Canada Sports Hall of Fame is satisfying because she’s being honoured outside of her sport.

She calls the evolution of girls and women’s hockey over the last few years as incredible and with that many more women will be named to the Hockey Hall of Fame as Hefford was.

When she started playing there were only three three girls teams is Kingston. Now, at the INVISTA Centre, the Kingston Ice Wolves organization has hundreds of girls playing hockey in Kingston and an ice pad to call their own.

“Now to be walking into an arena on a weekend and see the place full of girls playing hockey,” she said. “It’s just nice to see how the game has grown and the most important thing it’s normal for girls to play, nobody thinks twice about it.”

“Women that came before me weren’t even allowed to play the game and now it’s completely normal.”

Hefford wouldn’t mind her three young children, Isla, 6 Lachlan 4 and Arwen, 2 to play hockey but Hefford said it’ll be up to them if they want to stay in the game.

“I want them to experience it, I consider it very Canadian, I consider skating much like riding a bike, It’s something I want them to learn to do.  Whether they take it on as a sport they love or not is obviously something that’s totally up to them.”

Another mark Hefford has made on Kingston is her popular girls-only hockey school she runs at the Invista Centre with former Team Canada teammate Lori Dupuis.

The camp has sold out almost every of their 21 summers.

Hefford said it’s the only camp in Eastern Ontario where young girls can learn and experience being on the ice with national team players.

“Hopefully for them to get some really good instructions from women who play the game at a high level,” she said. “We wanted them to learn a little bit about hockey but it’s really about having some fun with the game and get a little bit better.”

“I love to come back to Kingston and give back a little bit in a small way to the community that I grew up and to see the girls there and the support I’ve had over the years is really nice. As long as there’s a demand there we’ll continue to run it.”