Hefford still going strong at 33

MIKE KOREEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:57 AM ET

KINGSTON, Ont. Jayna Hefford doesn't mind being the team geezer.

Age, after all, is just a number.

It happened fast, the Kingston-born hockey star chuckled after playing the first of two Canadian Women's Hockey League outreach games with her Brampton Thunder at the Invista Centre on Saturday.

I went from being a rookie to being the oldest.

Indeed, Hefford recorded a career first at the Canadian national women's team's most recent event the 4 Nations Cup in Newfoundland last month.

With the retirement of veteran defenceman Becky Kellar after Canada won gold at the Vancouver Olympics in February, Hefford, at the age of 33, became Canada's oldest player.

It is one of those things you don't really think about, Hefford said. Then when you do, you think 'Wow, that's kind of crazy.'

But I'm still having fun and when your teammates are 18, it makes you feel like you are 18.

On Saturday, Hefford looked quite good before an enthusiastic crowd of about 400.

Hefford and fellow national team veteran Caroline Ouellette of the Montreal Stars were the two most dangerous players on the ice. Undefeated Montreal rallied to beat Brampton 3-2 the only downside for the hometown fans, who watched Kingston natives Hefford and Brooke Beazer score for the Thunder.

On Sunday, the Stars crushed the Thunder 7-0.

Hefford, whose first few strides set her apart from most other players on the ice on Saturday, doesn't know whether she wants to stick around for a fifth Olympics in 2014 in Sochi, Russia.

What she did know is that she didn't want to call it quits after the jubilation of Vancouver.

Last (season) was so intense, Hefford said. The goal of being in Vancouver and winning gold was a four-year kind of thing. To think about that being the last time you play, I didn't even want to put that on the table. I just wanted to go and enjoy it.

This year is kind of about that, too. Then, I'll see where I'm at.

Though Hefford was relatively quiet in Newfoundland with three points in four games, she was second in individual scoring at the Olympics and is tied for second in scoring this season in the CWHL, the top league for women's players.

Hefford's next international test will come at the world championship in Zurich, Switzerland in April. After that, she'll consider her options.

I could be in Russia, I may not be in Russia, we'll see, she said. I definitely want to stay involved with the game. If I do stick around and play, I want to make sure I'm an impact player and I can help the team in a real positive way. If I can't, I'll know that's my time, too.

If it's up to Kingston fans, Hefford will make a run for 2014. She fired home a rebound in the first period on Saturday, drawing a loud cheer from the fans, many of whom attended Hefford and Thunder teammate Lori Dupuis' Kingston hockey school this summer.

It's always fun to come home, Hefford said. For Lori and I, with our hockey school, a lot of the girls are really familiar. It's nice for them to see this level of hockey. It doesn't come through here all that often.

At the Clarkson Cup national championship at the K-Rock Centre in 2009, Hefford and Beazer were held off the scoresheet in a loss to Montreal.

Beazer, who is playing forward this season after suiting up as a defenceman last year, won't soon forget her goal in front of the Kingston fans on Saturday.

The last big thing in Kingston was provincials when I was 14 playing midget, Beazer, now 24, said.

Beazer didn't hesitate when asked if Hefford should keep playing until 2014.

She's still at a top level, Beazer said. She's still, in my opinion, the best player out there. She's still working it and hopefully, she's going for Sochi. I think she'll do it. I think she wants it.

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The games in Kingston were part of a CWHL strategy to expose the league to markets without teams. Other cities hosting games this season are St. Catharines, Georgetown, Collingwood and Glencoe (west of London). The CWHL has teams in Boston, Montreal, Burlington, Brampton and Toronto. ... The Kingston Kimco Voyageurs allowed the Thunder, with the two Kingston players, to use their dressing room for the entire weekend. ... Montreal had just 12 skaters on Saturday with two players serving as NCAA assistant coaches and three players injured. Another Stars player, forward Noemie Marin, hurt her right leg after an awkward fall into the boards on Saturday, keeping her out of Sunday's contest.


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