danielle goyette

Portrait of a pioneer

Hockey made Danielle Goyette an Olympic champion and a Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, but it gave her much more than medals

Wendy Graves
June 17, 2018

Danielle Goyette first played hockey on the outdoor rinks of Saint-Nazaire, Que. Her only coaching came from watching the Montreal Canadiens. She’d study their players, then head outside to practice on her own. She’d play every day from the moment the pond froze until the weather turned warm.

She was 15 before she played her first organized game. The team played every Wednesday, a mix of women 30 years apart in age together more for fun than competition. She didn’t play competitively until her early 20s. Shortly thereafter, in 1991, Canada’s National Women’s Team invited her to training camp.

A 15-year international career followed, during which Goyette recorded 219 points, and won two Olympic gold medals and eight IIHF World Women’s Championship gold medals.

It was anything but that simple and straightforward.

Despite having no formal coaching, Goyette easily transitioned to a higher level of play. Her read-and-react style showed off her skills. Her biggest challenge was communication.

“Living in Quebec, I never needed the English language,” says Goyette. “From 1992 to 1996, I’d come back home from being with the team feeling like I missed so much about my experience.” It was emotionally exhausting to not understand what was being said to her. “For years, I’d go to the back of the drill line, watch what was going on and mimic the players ahead of me.”

With women’s hockey making its Olympic debut in 1998, Goyette knew she’d need to move to Calgary for centralization. She headed west in August 1996. “I said, ‘I’m going for a season. I’ll try to learn the language and come back home.’” Instead, she never left. “That move changed my life. Now I live my life in English.”

Goyette scored Canada’s first-ever Olympic goal in the opener against Japan on her way to a hat trick. She finished with a tournament-best eight goals. Losing the gold medal game to the United States in Nagano broke the players’ hearts, she says, but it also made the team better.

Goyette didn’t know if she’d get a second chance four years later. In 2001, she had shoulder surgery and worried about her conditioning. Going into the Games, the Canadians lost eight straight to the U.S. They stopped their rivals when it mattered most, though, and won gold. Goyette tied for the team lead with 10 points.

“When you get that medal, you think about the hard times you had,” she says. “That’s what makes it special. It’s not the good times; you think about the adversity we went through to get there.”

In 2006, Goyette was the country’s flag bearer for the Opening Ceremony. “I say it’s a dream come true but it’s not really something that you dream of when you train.” Less than two weeks later, she had her second Olympic gold medal.

Goyette’s final national team appearance came at the 2007 IIHF World Women’s Championship in Winnipeg. “I wanted my friends and family to see me one more time,” she says. “I enjoyed every day of that tournament. I was 41, but I felt like I was 26 again.”

With the Vancouver Games three years away, Goyette was still considering whether she wanted play on when she received an intriguing offer: the head coaching position for the University of Calgary women’s hockey team.

“I didn’t think I had the personality to be a head coach,” she says. “I thought I’d go into renovation – buy a house, redo it, start a business – but still be involved in sport as an assistant coach.

“But being closer to retirement than to the beginning of my career, I thought, ‘I’m going to take a chance. If I don’t try, I won’t know.’”

She threw herself into her new role. She found coaching mentors from both hockey and other sports. She bounced ideas off her former coaches.

It was important she stay connected to the game.

“Being in sport changed my life,” says Goyette.

Once shy and quiet, she can now confidently walk into a room and introduce herself to people she doesn’t know. Sport, she says, is the best school of life. You learn to respect what everyone brings to the table, to push yourself on days when you’re not at your best and to grow from adversity.

“I knew how much I changed as a person and what hockey gave to me. I want those who play for me to have the same experience. I want them to grow as a person.”

Goyette served as an assistant coach for Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team at the 2008 and 2009 IIHF World Women’s U18 Championships.

Marie-Philip Poulin, now a two-time Olympic gold medallist herself, played both those years.

“I remember after the final game [in 2009] – it was a tough loss for us – Danielle took me aside for a walk,” says Poulin. “She really put things in perspective and taught me a lot during that walk.”

She grew up watching Goyette and France St-Louis, and “having pioneers like them pave the way helped me believe in myself and dream big to one day be on the [national team].”

Poulin now wears the ‘C’ as captain, and Goyette’s words have stayed with her.

“She taught me to always push myself,” says Poulin. “It’s not going to be easy sometimes, but push yourself and make the people around you better. She taught me at a young age about being a good leader.”

Goyette led the University of Calgary to the CIS national championship in 2011-12. She served as an assistant coach at the 2012 and 2013 IIHF Women’s World Championships and the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, winning her third gold on the biggest stage in sports.

Meanwhile, off-ice honours began coming in: induction into the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame in 2013 and Canada Sports Hall of Fame in 2015, and named to the Order of Hockey in Canada in 2018.

Last year, she became the fifth women enshrined into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

“It’s amazing to see that,” says Poulin. “It makes us dream as players, as little girls, that maybe one day we can be there.”

Goyette played hockey for love of the game, not to win medals or travel the world. It was only as she got older that she realized the impact she had on others.

“I take that seriously now because I’ve been inspired by other people – not just in hockey but in life,” she says. “I think everybody needs a role model, and if I can help one person, I did my job.”

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

[email protected] 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

[email protected]

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

[email protected]

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