danielle dube
© UBC Athletics

Fire and ice

The lone British Columbian to play for Canada at the women’s worlds, Danielle Dubé has spent the last four years balancing a full-time job, two young children, and an unexpected university hockey career

Jason La Rose
March 31, 2016

Danielle Dubé calls her hockey career “well-rounded.”

And she’s not wrong; the goaltender did it all, playing for Canada’s National Women’s Team, in Canadian Interuniversity Sport, and even professionally with men’s teams in the United States.

It’s just the order of her résumé and the dates of her accomplishments that are a little different.

How different? This is as good an example as any – Dubé is graduating from the University of British Columbia this spring, 13 years after her final professional game, and 19 years after she became the first (and still only) player from B.C. to represent Canada at the IIHF World Women’s Championship.

The 40-year-old netminder – who is a full-time firefighter with the Richmond Fire Department, and a mother to 10-year-old son Porter and eight-year-old daughter Camden – has certainly taken the road less travelled.

Let’s start at the beginning. Dubé got her first taste of Team Canada action in the mid-1990s, winning gold at the Pacific Rim Championship in 1995 and 1996, and the 4 Nations Cup in 1996, before her crowning international achievement; she appeared in two games, including a shutout win over Switzerland in the tournament opener, to help Canada to its fourth-consecutive world title in Kitchener, Ont.

“They didn’t pick the goaltending until the week before, so they brought all three of us goaltenders to Kitchener, not knowing which one of us was going to get sent home a week before worlds,” remembers Dubé. “That added a little extra stress and pressure at the time, and I think getting through that and actually making the team was a huge moment for me.”

Dubé earned a spot on the roster for Olympic centralization ahead of the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan, where women’s hockey made its debut, and again prior to the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, but never got the chance to play on the biggest stage in sports.

“In 1998 I broke my collarbone, so that was a disappointment,” she says. “After that I ended up playing some pro and not even coming to Team Canada camps for a couple years. I wanted to give a full effort to play at the professional level, and then in 2000, leading into 2002, [Hockey Canada] allowed me to come back, go to some camps again, and centralize again, and then I didn’t make it again.

“To get so close twice was tough, but at the same time so many girls don’t get there. I have four gold medals with Team Canada, so that’s a lot to be proud of. I can’t hang my head too low.”

In all, Dubé appeared in 17 games with Canada’s National Women’s Team between 1994 and 2002, fashioning a 12-1 record, and posting a 1.58 goals-against average, and .912 save percentage.

She played one more season of professional hockey with the Long Beach Ice Dogs in 2002-03 before walking away from the game in late 2003, although she calls her final season her best.

For the next nine years, Dubé focused on her new life as a firefighter and a mom, with only occasional skates in the Vancouver area, before a call in early 2012 from Melody Davidson, now the general manager of national women’s team programs with Hockey Canada, sent her in a whole new direction.

“She called me to come back and do some goalie coaching; she wanted to get alumni involved in the program, so she asked if I’d be interested in doing some coaching with Team Canada,” Dubé says. “I went to the national goalie camp in the summer of 2012, and then I went to Finland for the IIHF development camp.”

It was in Finland that Dubé reconnected with a pair of old teammates – Danielle Goyette, the head coach of the University of Calgary women’s hockey team, and Hayley Wickenheiser, who had just finished her second season with the Dinos.

Goyette knew UBC was bringing in a fresh coaching staff after a disappointing season, and suggested Dubé get in touch with new head coach Graham Thomas about working with the Thunderbirds as a goalie coach.

Wickenheiser had another suggestion.

“She joked that I should play instead because then she wouldn’t be the oldest in the league, because I’m a year older than her,” Dubé says. “We laughed about it, because it was not a serious thing, but when I got back to Vancouver I approached Graham about being a coach.

“I met with him and we sat down to talk, and in the last five minutes of our conversation, he and the assistant coach threw out that I might want to play. I laughed, but he said they could work on getting me into school.”

She’s not sure exactly what convinced her to take the plunge, but Dubé soon found herself enrolled at UBC, taking online classes in pursuit of a degree in psychology, and on the ice with players half her age.

With a veteran goaltender between the pipes, the turnaround on the ice was instantaneous for the Thunderbirds; UBC started and finished Dubé’s four-year university career with Canada West championships and trips to the CIS nationals – not bad for a team that won just one game the year before Dubé arrived.

“I think everyone started to believe that we could have a good program, and then the last three years the program kept growing,” Dubé says. “We have young girls all across Canada who are dying to come to UBC now; it’s not only a great academic school, but the women’s hockey is competitive, and we really proved this year at nationals that we are here to stay. We had some bumps and bruises in that last game (an 8-0 loss to Montreal in the national final), but we know where we need to be.”

So now, for the second time, Dubé is ready to call it a career. With her undergrad degree done, she has set her sights on grad school, and a future in counselling; ideally, she’d like to help fellow firefighters with post-traumatic stress disorder, something she says is becoming more openly talked about in her profession.

And, of course, she can spend more time being a mom to Porter and Camden.

“The timing of me being done is perfect; they’re at the age now where they want mom around more, but they’ve been so supportive and I think it has been neat for them, but also for myself, to have them experience me as a hockey player, because that was my whole life before,” Dubé says. “I’ve had these 15 minutes of fame all the way through my career with junior with the guys, pro with the guys, and what not, so it was kind of my identity as a hockey player, but they didn’t really know that.”

Dubé takes a lot of pride in being the first B.C. native to play for Canada at the women’s worlds, but didn’t think she’d still be the only one almost two decades later.

After having a front-row seat to some of the best women’s hockey in the province for the last four years at UBC, though, she’s pretty confident she won’t be alone for long.

“I know there is a lot of talent here,” Dube says. “Women’s hockey has grown so much, and I know myself, being part of the CIS now, seeing the young girls coming up from B.C., the exhibition games we play, there’s so much talent here. It’s surprising that these girls aren’t making the team, but it’s coming.”

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

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