Friday, 4 February 2022

Adding A Little ECHL History

When it was announced that Danielle Goyette was stepping down from her post as the head coach of the Calgary Dinos women's hockey team to take the Director of Player Development position with the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs, I don't think anyone could fault her for following a dream to work at the NHL level. Goyette, head coach of the 2012 U SPORTS National Championship Calgary Dinos, was rebuilding the university squad nicely for a 2021-22 run in Canada West before the Leafs came calling with an opportunity that I'm not sure anyone would turn down. As a results, Goyette now works with the Leafs' prospects and players in a development role, and that includes players with the AHL's Toronto Marlies and the ECHL's Newfoundland Growlers which is where she'll be spending time over the next week!

It was announced by the Growlers today that Danielle Goyette will officially become the first female assistant coach in ECHL history when she joins the club in the coaching role following Growlers head coach Eric Wellwood stepping away from the team due to COVID-19 protocols! Goyette will help the Growlers as they prepare for their series against the Reading Royals, and that means the former Dinos women's hockey head coach and the former Team Canada player and coach was on the bench on Thursday!

Before we get to the game action, having a woman serve as a coach in any capacity in men's professional hockey shouldn't be something we're celebrating for the first time ever in 2022. It seems long overdue when you consider the skills and abilities of a pile of female coaches, but this is where we stand in hockey at this time. I can admit that, yes, the game is changing and evolving with moments like Goyette's in the ECHL, but it still feels extremely odd to be writing about "the first woman to" in hockey in 2022.

Nevertheless, Goyette was behind the bench for the Growlers on Thursday alongside fellow assistant coach Nathan MacIver as the Growlers welcomed the Reading Royals to Mary Brown's Centre in St. John's, Newfoundland. After a scoreless first period, it appeared that things would turn in Newfoundland's favour when Marc Johnstone scored 26 seconds into the second frame to put the Growlers up 1-0. And then the roof caved in.

Let me state that the roof physically didn't cave in on the arena, but the night got a lot worse for the Growlers as Reading scored the next four goals before Johnstone scored his second of the game to make it a 4-2 game after 40 minutes. Whatever was said between periods by MacIver and Goyette didn't seem to matter as the Royals added five more third-period goals as they took the first game in three-game set by a 9-2 score. It was not the debut that I suspect Goyette wanted as an ECHL coach, but that was the final result.

Goyette and MacIver would team up on Friday night as well as the two sought their first ECHL win once more, and Reading would be the opponent that the Growlers played once again. With that 9-2 loss on Thursday still haunting them, the two coaches looked to exorcise those demons on Friday. Each team would notch a goal in each period as the Growlers and Royals played to a 3-3 stalemate through 60 minutes, but Reading's Jacob Pritchard would score the overtime winner at 1:23 of the extra period as Reading downed Newfoundland by a 4-3 score.

The two teams will battle on Saturday afternoon, but Goyette's Olympic, World Championship, and U SPORTS medals couldn't generate an ECHL win in two games. I'm not sure how long she'll be with the Growlers in an assistant coaching capacity, but I'm hoping she can find a win before it ends. Being 0-1-1 as an ECHL coach just feels incomplete for Danielle Goyette at this point in her career.

Let me be clear: this is an awesome moment for Danielle Goyette as she makes a little history. For me, it's pretty cool to see her stand behind an ECHL bench after all the work she did in Canada West that I feel privileged to have watched. She's going to continue to knock down walls and kick in doors when it comes to opportunities in hockey, so don't think this will be the last "first" she accomplishes in the men's game by any means. Danielle Goyette's not done writing her name into the record books for men's professional hockey, and it will be fun to watch her make more history as continues to seize opportunities whenever they present themselves.

Good on you, Danielle, for being the first in what I hope will be a long and successful line of many.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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