by Rob Del Mundo
Brampton Thunder forward Jayna Hefford is a long-time Team Canada veteran who has won seven world championships and four Olympic gold medals, including the most recent triumph in Sochi, Russia. But while she is a 17-year member of Canada’s National Women’s Team, Hefford feels like a rookie in the newest chapter of her life – motherhood.
“I’m home full-time with her,” Hefford said of her one-year-old daughter, Isla. “Any first-time mother knows you seek advice everywhere you can. You often don’t really know what you’re doing; you just sort of figure it out. It definitely changes the conversations you have with people, especially people that have kids."
Upon Team Canada’s return to Toronto’s Pearson Airport two days after the Olympic Winter Games ended, Isla, not yet cognitive enough to appreciate the gold medal that adorned her mother’s neck, sat in Hefford’s arms as mom was surrounded by a horde of cameras and flag-waving supporters.
“I think she knows what hockey is now,” Hefford said to reporters.
After Canada skated off the Bolshoy Ice Dome surface this past February, Hefford joined teammates Caroline Ouellette and Hayley Wickenheiser as the only Canadians to win gold medals in four consecutive Olympic Games. The feat has been matched at an international level only by Soviet biathlete Alexander Tikhonov and German speedskater Claudia Pechstein.
Rather than return to finish the season with Brampton as she has done in previous Olympic years, Hefford opted instead to take a well-earned rest and spend time with her family.
“It was a long season for us,” Hefford said of the often gruelling journey that included the pre-Olympic National Women’s Team Midget Series, 2013 4 Nations Cup, and six exhibition games against the United States.
“It’s nice just to be home, and get caught up with friends and family,” she told CWHL.ca. “I had a chance to go on vacation. So I’ve been enjoying the down time.” Hefford hasn’t committed to playing for Brampton in 2014-15, and will use the coming months to ponder her future.
As she raises Isla with her partner, CWHL co-founder and former U.S. Olympian Kathleen Kauth, Hefford is quick to call upon any of her past or present teammates for parenting tips. The sorority of Olympic-playing hockey moms is a tight-knit community.
“I can appreciate how difficult it can be to compete at this level and have a family at home," Hefford said. "Becky Kellar did it for so long with two kids, Hayley Wickenheiser has done it for a long time, and so have Vicky Sunohara and Cheryl Pounder. You learn how difficult it can be, and you have a lot of respect for that.”
A typical day in the life of Jayna and Isla may include swimming or a stroll in the park. Lifetimes of early morning hockey practices have prepared Isla’s parents for a schedule that now includes around-the-clock feedings and changing diapers.
“It’s fun to see how much she’s growing and learning, and it’s a really fun time right now," Hefford said of her daughter, whose name was chosen by her and Kauth because it sounded “feminine and strong.” “You can’t really put into words what having a child means,” Hefford said. “It’s so special and I’m really enjoying that time at home right now.”