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Hockey Hayley Wickenheiser says Downie’s death feels like ‘we lost a teammate’

Four-time Olympic gold medallist Hayley Wickenheiser poses for a portrait in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017. Canadian women's hockey star Wickenheiser says the death of Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie feels like the loss of a teammate.

Jeff McIntosh/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Canadian women's hockey star Hayley Wickenheiser says the death of Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie feels like the loss of a teammate.

She says the band's music was "a theme that ran through my entire hockey career and every team I've ever played on."

Downie, who announced last year he had brain cancer, died Tuesday night.

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The hockey world is remembering him today for his love of the game and tributes to it through his music.

The NHL tweeted its condolences, adding that Downie's "music and love for hockey will echo through arenas forever."

The Hip celebrated Canada's favourite game in numerous songs, including "Fireworks" and "Fifty-Mission Cap."

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Those tracks have both become standard on arena playlists, not only around the NHL but throughout Canada, from the junior A level to house league.

Several current and former NHL players took to Twitter to pay tribute to Downie, many recalling how Hip songs were staples of the dressing room.

"Those songs were constantly in our room," Wickenheiser said in an interview. "I remember many times as a team we'd be jumping around singing whether it was 'Courage' or whatever song it might have been. They were part of the fabric of what our team was. I kind of feel we lost a teammate almost."

A devoted Boston Bruins fan, Downie sat alongside Bobby Orr at a playoff game last spring.

Doug Gilmour, a fellow Kingston, Ont., native, said he was heartbroken to hear the news.

"Few Canadians touched this country like Gord Downie," he wrote. "Thank you for everything you gave us. My deepest condolences."

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At the 2002 Winter Olympics, Downie pulled some members of the gold-medal winning Canadian women's hockey team on stage during a concert at the University of Utah.

"Our whole team was on stage with Gord and the whole band," recalled Wickenheiser. "Nothing crazy (or) fancy ever. It was just those guys usually playing and all the athletes, the hockey team, sitting around and having a beer and chit-chatting. Just the ultimate Canadian experience when you think of how humble and understated they were and he was, but just so brilliant in terms of the lyrics and the stuff that he put together that really resonated with athletes and our team through the years."

Wickenheiser said his death is a "loss for Canada."

"We all knew he didn't have much time left," she said. "It's a big hole in the fabric of music and sport and who we are as Canadians."

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