When you think about Canada's women's hockey program, you immediately think of Jayna Hefford. She represented her country on the game's highest stages for close to 20 years.
Born in Trenton, Ontario on May 14, 1977, Jayna moved with her family to Kingston as an infant. The family loved hockey and Jayna followed suit, beginning to skate at the age of six. The game came quite readily to Jayna, and by 1994, she was a member of Ontario's championship team in the inaugural women's under-18 tournament. A year later, she was a member of Team Ontario at the Canada Winter Games, captaining her squad to the gold medal.
While attending the University of Toronto in 1996-97, Jayna starred with the Lady Blues, finishing the season as the OWIAA's top scorer and also earned rookie of the year honours. She was invited to join the Canadian squad that went on to win the gold medal at the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Women's Championships. This was the first of an incredible 12 World Championships in which Jayna would participate. She and the Canadian team collected seven gold medals and five silver medals during this time.
While the team excelled through the championships, it was propelled, in large part, by Jayna. In 1999, she was the tournament's leading scorer. She repeated that feat at the World Championships in 2000. Moving ahead to 2004, in Jayna's fifth IIHF World Championships, she was selected to the tournament's All-Star Team, and also received the Directorate Award as the Top Forward. She won the Directorate Award again in 2005.
1998 was a pivotal year in women's hockey as it marked the first time that the Winter Olympic Games were opened to women's hockey. Jayna was selected as a member of Team Canada for the tournament in Nagano, Japan, and flew home with the Olympic silver medal.
Jayna ended up participating in five Olympic Games for Canada. After the silver in Nagano, she and Team Canada went on an amazing run, winning gold in Salt Lake City, Utah in 2002, gold in Turin, Italy in 2006, gold in Vancouver, British Columbia in 2010 and gold in Sochi, Russia in 2014. Hayley Wickenheiser is the only other woman to play for Canada in each of these five Olympic tournaments, and Hefford and Wickenheiser, along with Caroline Ouellette, are the only players to earn four consecutive Olympic gold medals in women's hockey.
Team Canada benefited greatly from Hefford's offence. At the 2002 Olympics, she scored what would become the winning goal in the deciding gold medal game against the United States mere seconds before the end of the second period.
At the Esso Women's National Hockey Championship, Hefford was named Top Forward three times - 2003, 2006 and 2008.
While playing for the Brampton Thunder in the National Women's Hockey League (NWHL), Jayna was the league's top goal scorer and scoring leader in 2000-01, 2002-03, 2003-04, 2004-05 and 2006-07. She retired as the league's all-time goal-scoring champion with 252 goals between 1998-99 and 2006-07. The Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL) was created prior to the 2007-08 season, and Jayna led the league in goals (26 in 27 games), and was added to the CWHL Central All-Star Team, as well as being named the league's Most Valuable Player. The next season, Hefford set league records with 44 goals and 69 points in 28 games. She won the Angela James Bowl as the leading scorer in 2008-09, was named the CWHL's Top Forward and was named to the league's First All-Star Team.
After sitting out the 2014-15 season, Jayna retired from Canada's National Team. Her 267 games played, 157 goals and 291 points for Canada are second only to former teammate Hayley Wickenheiser. The awards have rained down on Jayna in honour of her exceptional hockey career. In 1998, she was named Kingston and Area Amateur Athlete of the Year. Her number 15 has been retired in Kingston, and no sweaters with her number are used in Kingston Minor Hockey. In 2002, Jayna was inducted into the Brampton Sports Hall of Fame, and in 2016, the CWHL introduced the Jayna Hefford Trophy, awarded annually to the league's most outstanding player in the regular season.