Danielle Leonard: One of the Two-Sport Stars for the Concordia Stingers
On a Concordia Stingers women’s hockey squad that features multiple two-sport stars (Veronique Laramee Paquette: Red Bull Crashed Ice, Mary-Jane Roper: Speed skating, soccer), freshman Danielle Leonard carries on the tradition. Leonard is also a rugby player and competes at the varsity level in both sports at Montreal’s Concordia University.
Balancing both sports can be an accomplishment in itself: “It can be pretty hectic. My coaches are pretty understanding. Rugby season is first, so it gets the priority. It gets crazy at times.”
Former Stingers captain Lisa-Marie Breton contributes to the Stingers as a strength and conditioning coach for numerous sports. As a former CIS national champion and three-time Clarkson Cup champion, Breton’s winning attitude brings great value to the workouts that Leonard participates in.
“Workouts can be pretty intense. Three times a week we do workouts for women’s hockey. It is not just speed and agility. We also learn the fundamentals in the workouts. You do not just do it, you learn to do it well. Liz shows us the mechanics of working out and running.”
Another Clarkson Cup champion is prevalent on the Stingers' roster. Three-time Winter Games gold medalist Caroline Ouellette (who also competed for the Stingers for one season) joined Les Lawton’s coaching staff in the autumn of 2012.
“She is a great addition to the team. We are just in awe of her. She is an accomplished gold medal athlete. We do skills training with her. She makes it look so easy. Then we try it and realize it is a lot harder than it looks. Ouellette is a great athlete but a greater mentor. She really helps us.”
In her freshman season with the Stingers, the experience has been a positive one for the highly talented Leonard. “So far it has been a lot of fun. The girls are really nice.” The sense of family is one that has left a strong impression on the defender.
“I love making friendships. There is a feeling of family here. We all get along really well. There is a good atmosphere at practice and the coaches are great.”
Hailing from Napanee, Ontario, the opportunity to go out of province and play for Concordia in Montreal was based on educational priorities. “Concordia has a good business program, but the opportunity to play two sports at once is great. I really love it.”
Her opportunity to join Les Lawton’s women’s hockey team was based on a chance encounter. “My first schedule for the season was rugby. It was the rugby coach [who] suggested me to Les Lawton.”
As the first women’s hockey coach to have won over 500 career games in North America, the opportunity to play for Les Lawton is not lost on Leonard. “He deals mostly with forwards, but it is nice to have a coach that has accomplished so much.”
Playing on a defense that consists of four freshmen (including Leonard), she is part of the Stingers' rebuilding. Despite her inexperience at the university level, Leonard brings great maturity in her outlook: “We have a lot of leaders here. Everyone brings their own aspect to the game.”
Prior to joining the Stingers, Leonard played one season for the Durham Jr. Lightning, in Ontario’s Provincial Women’s Hockey League. Having the opportunity to play one season in the PWHL is one that Leonard benefited from. “I really think so. The quality is really high. A lot of girls from the PWHL play at the Division I level in the States. It is amazing to see how women’s hockey has taken off.”
Living in the Eastern Ontario town of Napanee, commuting to Durham Region (part of the Greater Toronto Area) so she could participate in the PWHL involved a lot of travel. “One of my best friends lived in Belleville and she played in Ajax (in Durham Region). We did a lot of carpooling but it certainly was a lot of travel.”
Life as a student-athlete at Concordia University has been one that consists of great rewards for Leonard. Despite her accomplishments, Leonard remains motivated, “Although rugby is my first sport, my goal as a hockey player is to be able to keep getting better. I want to keep making friendships, and I want to continue playing at an elite level.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated.”
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