Most UBC students have trouble balancing school, social life and occasionally the odd part-time job. But Thunderbirds women’s hockey goalie Danielle Dube takes it to the next level.
At the age of 39, Dube sits at the top of the Canada West women’s hockey league as the top goalie and is a mother of two and a full-time firefighter who is finishing up her undergraduate degree this year.
“I’m not very good with time management, but I’m so busy I’m kind of forced to be,” Dube admits. “It’s a lot of late night studying after the kids go to bed and whatnot. I’ve had a lot of help from family and friends.”
Originally, Dube hadn’t planned on returning to the ice. Having retired from playing men’s hockey over 10 years ago, she had thought of coaching the Thunderbirds instead. But the head coach Graham Thomas had other ideas.
“At the end of our meeting about coaching, he was like, ‘Oh, [three-time Olympian] Danielle Goyette said you might want to play,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, it was kind of a joke. I have a family and a job.' He said, ‘Well, you know we can make it work if you want to try.’”
“I was kind of only going to do it for one year, to be honest, just to say, ‘Oh yeah, varsity athlete — did that,” said Dube. “But then actually I realized I could come out with a degree from it in four years. So then I just played it out year by year as long as it was working for the girls and for the family.”
Coach Thomas also recalls the story fondly. “I still remember her calling me that summer and her wanting to come in and be a coach. Then we kind of turned around and said, ‘Hey, why don’t you play? You’ve never played before,’ and that was the idea there,” he said. “It’s definitely a really neat story for sure.”
As the oldest member of the team, the age difference doesn’t affect Dube as much as you might think.
“I had never sat in that kind of role as a leader, I’m more of a quieter player and I always have been,” said Dube. “It’s also forced me to be a little more vocal. The girls pay attention when I say things and that’s just from the experience I’ve had throughout my career.”
On her age difference between Thomas, she said, “I look at him like I look at any other coach from when I was younger. He’s in that coach’s role. He has his plan for the team and I’m a piece of that puzzle and him being younger has no effect on me.”
“There’s never anything like she’s bigger than us or the team. She doesn’t have that attitude. For us, she’s the right person and it doesn’t matter how old you are,” said Thomas on the same matter.
Because Dube played professional hockey, her varsity status eligibility was reduced by one year so she will be graduating in four years.
“I could probably fight to get that year back since they gave that to [former Olympian Hayley Wickenheiser], but for me if I got through all four years and graduated, that’s kind of completing it for me,” said Dube. “I just don’t know if that’s fair for the kids and for me and at my age now. I’m done and I’ve had my hockey career.”
Throughout said career, Dube has had some bumps and bruises along the way. The worst, in her opinion, was the injury sustained during the last regular season game against the University of Manitoba Bisons. After covering a puck on all fours, Dube had three players driving her neck into her shoulders and resulted in having two slipped disks in her neck.
“I could hear it, I could feel it – instant pain, numbness and loss of sensation in my arm. It was pretty scary, I’ve played hockey for 34 years now and that was probably the scariest injury that I’ve had,” she said.
After getting the green light from the doctors, she went on to play the semifinal match against the University of Regina and shut them out 1-0.
“Knowing it was my last year, I wanted to pull it off,” she said. “This could be my last time ever in competitive hockey. I just wanted to be able to enjoy it.”
Going to nationals in her last year as a varsity athlete is just the cherry on top for Dube.
“Being a student in your 20s, just know that it’s one step in your life. There are so many more opportunities out there and at any age. You never know what opportunity is gonna come so just seize the moment,” advised Dube.