The University of Calgary has added to its already impressive list of Olympic glory with the hiring of three-time Olympic medalist in women's hockey and eight-time world champion Danielle Goyette as the new coach of the Dinos women's hockey team.
When not representing Canada in international tournaments, Goyette was a member of the Calgary Oval X-Treme in the Western Women's Hockey League since 1999. Though the prospect of coaching has never been far from her mind, the offer from the Dinos surprised her.
"I was talking for the last two or three years [about coaching the Oval X-Treme], but I never thought about the University of Calgary," she said. "When they approached me this year, I was really surprised and I was really interested in the job. After the world championships, I had an interview, brought my resume and I got the job."
Goyette's enthusiasm is echoed by many in and around the Dinos athletics program who are excited to see a proven winner take the reigns of the women's hockey team. Though a rookie to the coaching game many believe Goyette's wealth of experience as a player will make her a successful coach.
"She is one of the most decorated women's hockey players this country has ever seen," said Don Wilson, director of Dinos athletics. "She has enough playing experience and enough experience working with athletes, either as an instructor in camps or as a player herself that she will have all of the necessary knowledge and she will be supported by all of the other coaches in the Olympic Oval program."
Goyette has her work cut out for her. In 2002, the once-mighty Dinos women's hockey team was forced to move from Canadian Interuniversity Sport competition to the Alberta College Athletic Conference. Last season the team finished with a record of only 7-13-1-1, a far cry away from achieving their goal of returning to cis to compete against other university teams from around the country. Goyette is prepared for the obstacles that lie ahead.
"With all the specialty we have at the U of C and the Olympic Oval, I think it's a goal that's achievable," said Goyette. "I want to help the girls get better. We're going to start to train during the summer to make sure they get in better shape and get ready for September instead of coming in September and getting in shape. With that process, it's going to help the team; it's going to help the girls. With all that work, it's going to be faster for us to achieve our goal."
Goyette and the Dinos will have some help achieving their goal this season. In addition to hiring Goyette, the Dinos announced a new partnership with the Olympic Oval and the Oval X-Treme aimed at developing players through various hockey stages.
"Our major focus right now is on developing the varsity program and making the U of C Dinos a competitive contender," said Kathy Berg, director of the High Performance female hockey team at the Olympic Oval. "In doing that, hopefully we can encourage our top local youth to attend the University of Calgary. Our focus is educating our top young athletes in Calgary, training them as athletes in Calgary and putting them into the Calgary workforce. It's moving them from minor hockey into the varsity system, training them both academically and [athletically] and once they graduate they can move into the WWHL system from there."
Since CIS stated that players cannot play on professional teams while they are playing varsity sports, the Dinos and the X-Treme have been searching for a productive relationship. In recent years the Dinos were forced to take early-morning and late-evening practice times due to the professional X-Treme taking the prime ice time. Many hope the new arrangement will solve this problem and give the Dinos opportunities to skate with world-class players.
"It certainly puts people in a closer working relationship, which is always to everybody's benefit," said Wilson. "Because the Oval X-Treme and Dinos are working together they can share an ice period together. That's how they get better ice-time utilization as well as coaching expertise. The working relationship between all groups will be better and, as such, everybody will benefit.
Despite this new partnership between minor, varsity and professional hockey players, what's ultimately most important to the Dinos is their play on the ice. Goyette's first step to improve the Dinos results is to make sure they have the right frame of mind.
"Sometimes it's more about confidence than anything else," she said. "All high-level athletes can tell you the difference between the top players and the lower levels is confidence. It's mental. If you start to work with that during the summer it helps give confidence to the girls [at the start of the season.] [Making sure] everyone is in the same direction is the main key as a coach because you can have the best players in the world, if they don't work together, they won't go anywhere. That's what I'm going to do, make the 20 girls on the team work in the same direction and we're going to be successful like that."