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
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
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
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
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
“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
“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
“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.”