CALGARY - Hayley Wickenheiser will undergo season-ending foot surgery Wednesday and won't play for Canada at the upcoming women's world hockey championship.
The four-time Olympic gold medallist and Canada's all-time leading scorer played in last year's Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, with a broken bone in her left foot.
Wickenheiser wore a walking cast for three months following the Games. She had a screw surgically implanted last August but her foot has continued to give her problems this season.
"I've done everything I can to try and heal it and now I need to take a step back and take the time it needs and do this," Wickenheiser told The Canadian Press. "It's the major weight-bearing bone in the foot, probably the most important bone in your foot.
"It's frustrating to miss the worlds, but at the same time, I need to do this right and come back strong for next season and that's my goal."
The 36-year-old from Shaunavon, Sask., will have the surgery in Toronto. She says the procedure involves grafting bone from her hip to implant into her foot and new hardware may be inserted as well.
Canada's roster for the 2015 world women's hockey championship, which will be held March 28 to April 4 in Malmo, Sweden, will be announced in the next few weeks.
Wickenheiser leads the Canadian women's team all-time in goals (146), assists (172) and games played (216).
She was captain of the women's team that won gold at the 2010 Winter Olympics and an assistant captain in Sochi. She's played in 12 world championships for Canada and won gold in seven.
The five-foot-10, 170-pound forward participated in a national team camp the last week of January in Blainsville, Que. She has five goals and 14 assists in 15 games for the University of Calgary Dinos this season.
But she's been dealing with this foot injury since the 2012 Four Nations Cup in Finland, where she took a slapshot off the foot during practice. She initially thought it was a bone bruise.
"Knowing bone bruises take months to heal, you think it will slowly get better," she said. "I knew something wasn't right for sure going into the Olympic year, but I didn't have any time to fix it.
"This is a really difficult injury. They're really hard to find and diagnose. They're often missed because they only show up on a CT scan."
Wickenheiser was able to continue playing because her skate boot provided support for her foot. But she's had to modify her dryland training.
It also hasn't helped that she's taken shots off that particular spot on her foot another half dozen times since the initial blast that injured it.
Wickenheiser wore a plastic protector on her skate boot this season as many NHL players do, but "too little, too late," she said.
"I've had this fracture for a long time," she said. "The bone really wasn't going to heal without a little bit of help, injecting fresh tissue in there."
She expects seven months of recovery and rehabilitation before she returns to the ice.
"I want to come back next season and be healthy and fit, so I'm going to give myself the time to have a long period of rehab and recovery so I can be 100 per cent by the time next season starts," Wickenheiser said. "You only get once chance to heal this right.
"I want to walk for the rest of my life as well and all those things."
Three-time Olympian Meghan Agosta-Marciano also won't play for Canada in Malmo as she's taking the season off to attend police academy in Vancouver.
Canada lost 3-2 to the United States in the final of the 2013 world championship in Ottawa. A women's world championship isn't held in the same year as a Winter Olympics. The Canadians rallied to beat the Americans 3-2 in overtime and win gold in Sochi.
Canada opens this year's world championship against the U.S. on March 28.