Portrait of a Three-time Olympian: Danielle Goyette, Women’s Hockey
by Brenda Cosens
Danielle Goyette in front of the Olympic Oval. / Photo: Brenda Cosens
When you’re an athletic kid growing up in a town of only 800 people, you play on pretty much every sports team there is. That was the case for Danielle Goyette as she spent her childhood and youth in St-Nazaire, Quebec, a village three hours north of Quebec City.
She was playing out on the outdoor ice rink by the time she was four or five-years old, but she was 15 before there was a women’s ice hockey “fun” team in town, where players ranged from teenagers to women in their 40s.
“It was more a social thing than anything else. At that time women’s hockey wasn’t really popular,” says Goyette. As women’s ice hockey wasn’t even an Olympic sport in the early 80s, aspiring to the Olympics was more of a fantasy than a dream.
In the meantime Goyette excelled at tennis (she was one of the top junior players in Quebec) and fastball, where she went to the World Championships as part of the Under-21 National team. She also enjoyed playing broomball in the winter months. One of eight children, her mother finally told her she needed to make a choice. Although her recreational hockey team only played once a week, Danielle was passionate about the sport. She was glued to the TV every time the Montreal Canadians played a game and would set up snow pylons on the outdoor rink to stand in for players, and try to recreate the moves the pros made. Dedicating every winter evening and weekend to hockey, the choice was obvious.
In 1991 she made the Canadian National Team and traveled to the World Championships. While her love of hockey remained undiminished, she suffered from terrible isolation as her lack of English kept her from communicating with her teammates. But her time on the team fuelled her dream to be on the first women’s hockey team to play at the Olympics.
Knowing that the 1998 Olympic team was going to be centralized in Calgary she moved here in 1996 to learn English and join the high-performance hockey program under Shannon Miller. She intended to stay for five months. It is now 13 years and counting.
Having retired as a player in 2008 at the age of 42, after 16 years with the national team, Danielle’s boasts an impressive record in women’s hockey. She has three Olympic medals (a Silver, Nagano 1998 and two Gold, Salt Lake City 2002 and Torino 2006). She was the leading goal scorer at the 1998 Olympic tournament, and finished tied as the total points leader (10) in Salt Lake. She is also an eight-time World Champion, most recently in Winnipeg in 2007. She has represented Canada at more World Championships than any other male or female player in the history of Canadian hockey and has more than 100 goals to her credit in international play.
During her career she was constantly engaged in a seesaw battle for top points scorer against Hailey Wickenheiser. The greatest honour of her career came when she was chosen as Canada's flag bearer for the Opening Ceremonies of the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy.
Among her other impressive stats are 24 shoulder dislocations and three shoulder surgeries as well as being the oldest current member of Team Canada at the time of her retirement.
And although the 2010 Olympics will mark the first time in the sport’s Olympic history that she has not been a competing athlete, she will be in the stands—a staunch supporter of the Canadian Team.
Since assuming the reins as head coach of the U of C Women’s Dinos Hockey team in 2007, Goyette has immediately turned their fortunes around, winning Silver in ACAC play in her first season and Gold in her second year. Because of this impressive turn around in the team’s fortunes, the Lady Dinos will be rejoining the Canadian Interuniversity Sport conference this 2009/10 season.
Goyette credits her parents for never making her or her siblings feel that there was something they couldn’t do.
“My parents always worked two jobs because we had a big family. They pushed me to do what I wanted to do. For them it was more ‘Do what you love to do and you’re always going to be happy, no matter what people say.’ Now I can look back and say ‘thank you.’ I’m so lucky to be able to do what I want to do in life. I have no regrets.”