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Crosby's advice to flag-bearer Wickenheiser: wave it high and don't trip

Hayley Wickenheiser, Team Canada women's hockey player and Canada's flag bearer, shows off the Canadian flag during a press conference before the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia on Wednesday, February 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

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Hayley Wickenheiser, Team Canada women's hockey player and Canada's flag bearer, shows off the Canadian flag during a press conference before the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia on Wednesday, February 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

SOCHI, Russia - Sidney Crosby's advice to Hayley Wickenheiser when she carries Canada's flag Friday is to "'wave it high and don't trip."

The Canadian men's hockey team captain was among the first of her Olympic teammates to congratulate Wickenheiser following the announcement she would bear the Maple Leaf at the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

"We were just kidding back and forth and chatting a little bit about what Sochi might be like and what to expect," Wickenheiser said Wednesday following a news conference at the main press centre in Sochi, Russia.

"It was nice for him to reach out and shoot me a text."

The women's hockey forward will be the first of Canada's 220 athletes to enter Fisht Olympic Stadium, although not all Canadian athletes will participate because some are competing Saturday. The men's hockey team arrives Monday.

Canada's goal in Sochi is the win more medals than any other country and "maintain the gain" from 2010. The host team won 26 medals, good for third overall, and the most gold with 14 in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C.

Wickenheiser's former teammate and current assistant coach Danielle Goyette also advised the flag-bearer to stay upright. Goyette was Canada's flag-bearer at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy.

"The first thing I said was 'just make sure you don't trip when you walk in,'" Goyette said.

Goyette also gave Wickenheiser tips on how to wave like the Queen and wave the flag at the same time.

"You just want to make sure it doesn't roll around the post," Goyette said.

Wickenheiser is a seasoned ceremonies veteran as she's marched with the Canadian team in all five of her previous Olympic Games, including the 2000 Summer Games as a member of the softball team.

"A lot of what you remember is the hurry-up-and-wait moments before you actually go into the stadium," she sad. "Marching actually goes by quite quickly. If there are friends and family in the stands, you try to pick out where they might be.

"The first Olympics I walked in I think I tried to take a picture every five feet and I missed most of it. This time I won't be doing that."

The choice of Wickenheiser by the Canadian Olympic Committee to carry the flag gives women's hockey team a high profile in a third straight opening ceremonies.

In addition to Goyette carrying the flag in 2006, Wickenheiser recited the athletes' oath at B.C. Place in Vancouver.

Women's hockey continues to be front and centre on Canada's Olympic team. France St. Louis was Wickenheiser's teammate the first time women's hockey was an Olympic sport in 1998. St. Louis is now one of two assistant chef de missions of the Canadian Olympic team in Sochi.

"It's incredible for women's hockey," Wickenheiser stated. "It's great kudos to the game and to the women who play the game and the athletes who have come through hockey in Canada."

The Canadian women open defence of their gold medal Saturday against Switzerland.

Wickenheiser wasn't able to finish a Dec. 12 game against the U.S. or a Jan. 19 game versus a midget triple-A team because of injuries.

Still, the 35-year-old from Shaunavon, Sask., didn't hesitate when chef de mission Steve Podborski invited her to carry the flag. She was having dinner in Calgary with her 13-year-old son Noah when that call came.

"I'm not as injured as you might think," Wickenheiser said. "I've certainly battled some injuries, but I feel very healthy right now and confident I can carry the flag and be ready to go the next day without any problems at all."

The Canadian women's all-time leading scorer will have Noah and parents Tom and Marilyn among her 11 supporters Friday at Fisht Stadium.

Much has been made of a "flag-bearer's curse", but Wickenheiser pointed out 2010 flag-bearer Clara Hughes won a speedskating medal in Vancouver.

Goyette says neither the media attention on her in the days before the opening ceremonies nor carrying the flag itself eight years ago was an emotional or physical drain on her. She doesn't expect it will be for Wickenheiser either.

"Hayley has been in front of cameras for the last 20 years of her life," Goyette said. "I think they picked the right person because it's not going to add anything on her shoulders."

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