By Christie Melhorn, November 30 2017 —
Dinos women’s hockey head coach Danielle Goyette is a University of Calgary legend whose legacy only expanded with her induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Nov. 13. Goyette secured 68 points with the Canadian women’s national team, making her the fourth-leading all-time scorer in the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) women’s tournaments. Her forceful play helped Canada capture seven IIHF gold medals as well as two Olympic gold medals in 2002 and 2006.
In addition to these incredible contributions, Goyette’s determination and fierce passion challenges gender stereotypes that historically excluded women from playing hockey. As only the fifth woman to enter the Hockey Hall of Fame, her influence as a prominent female athlete and leader has been further cemented.
From Nov. 10 to Nov. 13, Goyette joined the other 2017 inductees — Dave Andreychuk, Clare Drake, Jeremy Jacobs, Paul Kariya, Mark Recchi, and Teemu Seleanne — in a series of celebratory events in Toronto. Goyette described the weekend as surreal and humbling.
“On [Nov. 10] we went to the Maple Leafs game and were introduced before it started — it was amazing,” Goyette said. “The next day, we all spoke on a panel. It’s neat because you don’t know what kind of questions you’re going to get.”
On Nov. 12, Goyette tore up the ice in the annual Haagar Legends Classic in Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. The Classic is an all-star head-to-head between the inductees and other NHL icons.
“I played with Mark Messier — he was my centre,” Goyette said. “The [fellow inductees] were all so welcoming and we had such good chemistry. Kariya said to me ‘Danielle, friends for life.’ It was a dream come true.”
While forging life-long friendships with fellow inductees was profound, Goyette says sharing the experience alongside her family was invaluable.
“The best part was I had 24 family members there. They rarely come to events because of the language barrier — they mostly speak French,” Goyette said. “I’m not used to them living the experience with me. It was the first time I could really share something like this with my family. Even at the Olympics I didn’t have family members come. I couldn’t believe their emotion.”
Goyette recalled another part of the weekend that stood out.
“I was at The Keg with my family and friends and Lanny McDonald walked in with the Stanley Cup,” Goyette said. “He said, ‘Danielle, this is for you for the next 30 minutes.’ All my family jumped up and took a photo with the cup and myself.”
Goyette explained that part of her gratitude stems from how much women’s hockey has changed since she started playing.
“Women’s hockey wasn’t popular when I first started. We didn’t have a league, the world championship or the Olympics,” Goyette said. “When I was in my 20s a lot of people asked me, ‘Why are you playing hockey? It’s a man’s sport.’ But now I see young girls playing in girls divisions. Some girls have no choice but to play with boys but at least they have the chance. Their parents don’t say, ‘No you can only figure skate or play ringette.’ Nothing against those sports, but if you can’t play just because you’re a girl, that’s disappointing.’”
Fortunately, Goyette’s family fully supported her ambitions. She says playing sports in her childhood fundamentally shaped her identity.
“On the ice, I’m a totally different person. I’m not shy. I want to be the best at everything I do. It allows me to express myself,” Goyette said. “It helped me grow as a person. Being uncomfortable is when you grow. If you don’t, you’ll stay the same person for the rest of your life. That’s what sports do for kids, it exposes them to that experience and what they’re capable of.”
Goyette’s willingness to launch out of her comfort zone was reflective in her choice to move to Calgary to join the women’s national team in 1991.
“The hardest thing I ever did was move to Calgary for training,” Goyette said. “I didn’t know the language but I had to communicate with everybody on the team. For so many years, from 91–96, I couldn’t speak to my teammates because of the language. They had to draw everything on the board. But when you have a passion you will push yourself and embrace adversity.”
Goyette says that coaching the Dinos women’s hockey team was a fresh challenge that she almost passed up.
“I didn’t think I had the personality for it,” Goyette said. “As a head coach, you have to cut people and break dreams. But after some reflection, I thought it was a challenge I needed to keep growing as a person. Thank god I did. I love what I do.”
As head coach, Goyette is invested in her players. She strives to instil the confidence and fulfilment she found in hockey into them.
“I try to give back what I got from the sport. Our goal is to build new female leaders,” Goyette said. “A lot of the girls who start here are timid. Most of the time, we believe in them more than they believe in themselves. But they leave with confidence. I really miss them when they leave and I always wish I could have another year to make them grow even more.”
You can catch Goyette in action next this Friday, Dec. 1 when the Dinos play the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns at Father David Bauer Arena at 7 p.m. Student admission is free.