From the gridiron to the Hall of Fame: Ashley Viklund part of 32nd PA Sports Hall of Fame induction class

Submitted photo. Ashley Viklund, pictured here, will be inducted into the athlete category during the 32nd annual Prince Albert Sports Hall of Fame Banquet in April.

Ashley Viklund has always enjoyed the sport of football and she will be honoured for her contributions on the gridiron as part of the 32nd Prince Albert Sports Hall of Fame induction class.

“I was incredibly surprised that I had been nominated.” Viklund says. “I think that was immediately followed by feeling really honored. I think it’s very special to get to be included in the Hall of Fame here in PA.”

While she attended Carlton Comprehensive High School in Prince Albert, Viklund had a passion for the sport of football, but never joined the team. While Viklund was living in Regina pursuing her master’s degree, her career on the gridiron took off in 2012 when she joined the Regina Riot of the newly formed Western Women’s Canadian Football League (WWCFL).

“I always loved the sport of football.” Viklund says. “I remember watching the players back in high school get to walk around in their jerseys and I was so envious of them getting to play. But I was never really comfortable to go and join the high school team because it was pretty much all male. It really didn’t feel like a co-ed sport at that time. I got really into watching the CFL and all those things. When the WWCFL started up, I was just so excited for an opportunity to play against women and I think that made it much more accessible and possible for me to go and join and get involved.”

Viklund started her career with the Riot, but would join the Saskatoon Valkyries in 2018 where she won three championships, as well as the most valuable linesmen award in the 2021 season.

Valkyries head coach Pat Barry says the strength Viklund possesses made her so effective on the offensive line.

“She’s really quite a strong person and she’s a very strong athlete. I know from her other sports, which is something that I’ve always been interested in, her powerlifting, it’s something that she’s really committed herself to over the years. Because of that power and also the tenacity in her blocking, it’s not much fun for the person across from her sometimes. That’s what makes her such a valuable offensive line player.”

During her day job, Viklund works as a registered psychologist working with both youth and adults with mental health issues.

Barry says he was ecstatic when he heard the news of Viklund’s induction and that her career has made her a very important teammate with the Valkyries and will have a positive impact on her work as a coach.

“It’s so well deserved. I think pretty highly of her as a person, and she is someone that I’ve talked to in a meaningful way quite a bit over the last six or seven years. She is someone who’s a mental health care professional, and she cares very deeply about her teammates and she cares very deeply about people that she’s responsible for when she’s coaching them. I think very highly of her. I’ve told her several times over the years that I’m a big fan of hers and this is something that’s well deserved. I’m quite pleased that her hometown is recognizing her in this way.

Viklund took home hardware for Team Saskatchewan winning a national silver medal in 2012 and a gold medal in 2016, as well as being recognized as an all-star.

After being hesitant to play football in her youth, Viklund says there are more opportunities opening for females in football and she would encourage any young girls to give the sport their all.

“I think my biggest advice is to just go out and do it and give it a try. We’re finding more and more high school programs that are specifically for females developing. If all that’s accessible for you and your family right now is the local team, go and do it. A lot of girls are having a great experience by doing that. With a little success, maybe you’ll get an opportunity for your community to build something. Out in Tisdale, they’re starting to do all female camps here. The PA minor football association is looking at joining the Saskatoon minor football six a side league if we can get enough interest. So if you start going out and participating in the high school league, all girls programs might follow.”

Viklund currently serves as a coach for the Prince Albert River Riders and the Saskatchewan U18 Women’s Tackle Football team.

Barry says Viklund is someone younger female football players can look up to.

“She would be sort of a pioneer in the sport or a trendsetter. There were no opportunities for young girls to play tackle football when she was younger. Those opportunities exist now. In a lot of cases, the young girls that are on the U18 team that she coaches quite regularly, they look up to people like her who have been on Team Canada and the Valkyries.”

Viklund also took home a bronze medal in powerlifting in 2016 at the National Powerlifting Championships and was named the top female listed for Saskatchewan Powerlifting in 2021.

The 32nd annual Prince Albert Sports Hall of Fame induction banquet takes place on April 27 at the Ches Leach Lounge.