As the UBC Thunderbirds women’s hockey team rebuilds, a key acquisition is a legendary goaltender whose career has spanned two decades. Former national team member Danielle Dube has been a key reason that the Thunderbirds have already improved on their one-win total from the previous season. The young goaltenders Danielle Lemon and Samantha Langford have the opportunity to obtain guidance and wisdom from Dube.
The winner of the 1996 British Columbia Female Athlete of the Year Award, her experience makes her a natural leader for a young Thunderbirds team. “I feel I am a quite leader. I have never been super rah, rah but I work hard and keep a positive attitude. I have found so far that my age and experience brings something to the team that I most likely did not bring in my younger years.”
Danielle Dube was a veteran of the Canadian National Women’s Hockey Team in the 1990s. “I was very young the first time I wore a Team Canada jersey. I think it was during a US Olympic Festival in 1993 or 1994. I do however remember the feeling of pride to be standing on the ice with the maple leaf on my chest. Very exciting!!”
Although she was not selected for the Canadian contingent that competed at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Dube was a member of the 1997 IIHF World Championship team. For her efforts with the 1997 team, she was immortalized on a trading card issued by Upper Deck for their 1997-98 Collector’s Choice series. “Playing for Team Canada was a great honor. Although I have four Gold Medals with the team, the 1997 World Championships was the most exciting. I think the build up toward the Olympics the next season added to the excitement.”
Despite the disappointment of not competing in Nagano, making history was second nature to the talented goaltender. Preceded by the likes of Manon Rheaume and Erin Whitten, Dube holds the rare distinction of having played a professional game with men. “I grew up playing minor hockey and junior hockey in the boys leagues so it just seemed natural to continue into the pro leagues. It was an uphill battle just getting a tryout but my experiences were great and they played a big part in preparing me for my current career as a firefighter.”
On December 11, 2002, she stood between the pipes for the Long Beach Ice Dogs and stopped 12 of 13 shots in a loss to the San Diego Gulls. “Long Beach was by far my best year of pro hockey. I was originally cut from the team but the coach called me the next day and asked if I would return. He stated that I was capable of playing at that level and would give me an opportunity to play. Three months and a lot of practices later and I finally got into a game. The second half of the season went well for me as I ended up playing in 17 games that season.”
After Long Beach, Dube was still active in hockey. At eight-and-a-half weeks pregnant, she occupied the crease in a Sea-to-Sky Challenge game. “My teammates were all shocked. We had played a game in Vancouver and nobody knew but word got out during the game in Whistler. I remember Jackson Davies (from the old TV show "Beachcombers") skating up to me and asking if I was really pregnant. When I said yes he went straight to the bench and announced it to the team.” Dube continued, “Willy, from a local radio station, made it public by announcing it on the air the next Monday morning. The only problem was, I hadn't told my family yet, so there were a lot of shocked people.”
The game itself was not short of notable hockey figures. “The games were a lot of fun. I had played the year before and the Hansen Brothers were there. There were a lot of good laughs. During the game when I was pregnant, I remember stopping Igor Larionov on a breakaway. So our family joke is that my son, Porter, has stopped him on a breakaway from in the womb.”
In the autumn of 2011, Dube reappeared on the hockey scene when she participated in the Longest Ice Hockey Game 4 CF (lasting from August 26 to September 5, 2011). Conceived by Valerie Skelly, the game took place in Burnaby, British Columbia, with funds being raised for Cystic Fibrosis. Dube helped the group break the world record for the longest ice hockey game ever played, while continuing her impact on making hockey history. “A friend of a friend got me involved just by chance. It was a great experience. It was a very strong group of women who came together for a great cause. I actually played out as a forward for the first time in years and I think that helped me get through the four hour shifts. It was a very emotional moment when we broke the record.”
Her motivation to come back and play for the UBC Thunderbirds was one she could not resist. “I have recently gotten involved in some coaching opportunities and that opened the door to playing again. When I was given the chance to skate at training camp I couldn't turn it down. I didn't realize how much I missed the game till I put the pads on again. I am also very excited to have my kids see me play as it was such a huge part of my life for so many years.”
"She is a character person, all character," stated UBC head coach Graham Thomas. "Dube works hard, is dedicated and committed. She wants to be involved with the team and we welcomed her with open arms."
Having had the chance to work with Danielle Lemon and Samantha Langford, she speaks highly of her new teammates. “I feel we have very strong goaltending. Our coach can put any one of us in the net, and we will give our team a chance to win.” In Dube’s first game with UBC, she played against Saskatchewan at the Mandi Schwartz Challenge and logged her first win for the Thunderbirds. “It was great to get that first win. First off, I was nervous as it was my first game in a lot of years. Also, I want to make a difference this season. When I attended camp I told myself that if I could make a difference and be a part of a winning team here at UBC, then the hard work and balance of family, work, school and hockey would be worth it.”
All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated.