Danièle Sauvageau guided Canada to a gold medal at the 2002 Olympics. She has 24 years of experience with the RCMP and the Montreal Police Force and even coached in the QMJHL with the Montreal Rocket. Host Sami Jo Small chatted with Sauvageau about her passion for the game and her strategic initiatives that have helped her teams towards growth and success.
A full transcription of the podcast can be found below.
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Music/Man’s Voice: Welcome to Sami Jo’s Podcast. The show that is all about gaining insights from top performers as they share what made their teams successful and translate those ideas into your everyday lives and businesses.
Here is your host, 3 time Olympian, professional speaker, author and entrepreneur …Sami Jo Small
Sami Jo’s Introduction:
Welcome to episode #5 of Sami Jo’s podcast where I interview gold medal winning head coach and general manager, Daniele Sauvageau.
Told she couldn’t play when she tried to join her brothers team, she was forced to watch. Watching led to learning and helping, which lent eventually to coaching.
She pursued her other passions as well and was a member of the RCMP and Montreal Police for 24 years. She brought her learnings, and strategy building back to coaching and managing eventually winning World championship gold and an Olympic gold medal in 2002.
After winning a gold medal, she turned her sights to building teams and organizations in other sports and corporations taking a step away from hockey. However, the game drew her back and she returned to help build the Universite de Montreal team to multiple U sports championships eventually serving as a mentor and coach to the CWHL’s Les Candiennes de Montreal.
Her latest project, le Centre 2102, fascinated me the most. A centre in Montreal for elite women hockey players, we talk about it’s need, it’s impact, and how it will serve the future of the game.
I hope you enjoy my interview with Daniele Sauvageau.
Sami Jo: Firstly, I’d like to acknowledge the traditional indigenous owners of country throughout Canada and pay my respect to them, their culture and their elders past, present and future.
Sami Jo: Alright so 19 years after we won a gold medal. You, for me are still frozen in time kinda like a teacher. You still command my attention like I feel like I want to sit up straight and I still feel like I want to perform my best in front of you. So I am a little bit nervous for this interview, bear with me but I really appreciate you making the time to continue to support me all these years later. So welcome Danièle Sauvageau.
Danièle : Thank you very much Sami, it is a pleasure and a privilege to do this podcast with you. That’s for sure.
Sami Jo: Well thank you and I can’t wait to hear some of your answers. That I know for me writing the book – getting to reconnect with you again was really a special privilege. So I’ve tried to put some questions together that will allow you to really show why I think you were so successful for so many years so let’s get right into it. I don’t know if you knew that in 1995 I was actually at school near San Jose California at Stanford and I dragged my roommates to the 1995, I think it was called the Pan Pacific Championships?
Danièle : That’s right
Sami Jo: And that was your coaching debut with Team Canada is that correct?
Danièle : Actually I started a bit earlier than that but this is when we started to put what we called the coaching pool and the Pacific Rim was part of sort of evaluating us as well but trying to get obviously the game both for coaches as well as players to the next level so I still remember that trip that’s for sure. It was like going to the beach during the day and then going to the rink at night I thought that was, you know we wanted to do that forever.
Sami Jo: That’s what led me to Stanford.
Danièle : That I could understand why but I started like in ‘92 with the National team as a scout actually. And you know like trying to scout the best players here in Quebec and trying to push like what we thought it was the players that could crack up the line up on Team Canada. And I started to work with building what became the under 19 which became the under 22 and then U-18 and then u-16. So Yes as a scout, one of my role with the, in ‘95 was also to taking care of the goaltenders believe it or not.
Sami Jo: I don’t mean to laugh.
Danièle : Well You can laugh. When I think about that – that’s pretty amazing, what I have done.
Sami Jo: So that was Leslie Redden. Leslie Redden was on that team, I remember watching her and Manon.
Danièle : Leslie Redden was on that team and Manon Rheaume was on that team and we had you know like upcoming players as well, not players but goaltenders and I had done my at the time we had 5 levels to do that and obviously there was no women doing their levels at that time but I always loved to learn and I always thought that if I had all those levels they couldn’t tell me “well you know you don’t have what it takes”. No, I had it all, then it became “well you didn’t play in the NHL” and so on and so forth but for me when I did my Level 5 was kind of almost a master I did it on goaltenders. How do you train? How do know that the vision and all this got into working with Dr. Vickers on eye hand coordination. So for me I was like I wanted to kind of separate myself from the others and that is why I got into being more, trying to learn about goaltenders and trying to create the best environment that I could based on obviously where I was coming from.
Sami Jo: Interesting because I see you as very meticulous and that attention to detail which really is what makes great goaltenders and maybe you should have been a goaltender in your past, who knows?
Danièle : But if I would have had the chance to play. Again I grew up in Deux-Montages, there was no rink. We were playing like now with COVID all of us end up on those outdoor rinks. When I went to St. Eustache with both of my brothers, I was like hey we are here to play hockey. They say they could but you can’t and because of that you know this is where I said you know can I help and they said bring the water bottles to the bench and seriously Sa mi I believe that this is what brought me to the Olympics because I end up on the ice and up listening, observing, trying to find things. And I always said you know a coach at the end of the day is there to do things and not trying to do it. So for me I didn’t see at the fact that I did not play at least at that level was for me you know like a demeanour if I may say that way and we see it with Gretzky I mean he tried to coach, couldn’t coach. So because of that I needed to be on details. I needed to be efficient in everything that we were trying to put together.
Sami Jo: Well I won a gold medal filling water bottles. So I think that.
Danièle : Ha no no no you have a better history than mine!
Sami Jo: But it is true that when you and as a back-up goalie and as a goalie in general you know play sometimes and you don’t play sometime but when you have that opportunity to watch it is different and you are doing whatever you can to help and you’re trying to find your place you’re trying to find your role. When you first started actually coaching when you were younger and helping, what did you really love about it, did you love it? Did you wish you were playing or did you sort of find this new role helping and elevating others?
Danièle : I think that I accepted very quickly that I was not going to play in the sense organized hockey. I continued to play as much as I could based on you know other leagues or other ways to play but I think it is a great question because now you brought me back exactly where I was when I was told I could not play. No, I think that this is it now what can I do and finding solution and when I look at my path being a police officer or a hockey coach or mentor its finding solution and asking great question for people to find their way to see how they could have an impact so I think it became very quickly that if I wanted to and at the time I did not know that there was going to be a world championship or we did not know at the time we were going to go to the Olympics so the passion of the game was generated so watching men’s hockey imagining us being like Jean Béliveau or Guy Lafleur or later on obviously this is probably players you don’t know.
Sami Jo: I know them.
Danièle : It was the same thing. The passion of the game that is probably the reason I am still around so to speak but. I think for me the thing for me how could I put environment or building program that I couldn’t get. My Mom is a single child she lost her Mom at the age of 4 and I think that we learn before kids that you could give what you have not received and I think this is why and this is how I got involved for women’s hockey is to find ways even if for me it doesn’t change fast enough. We came a long way.
Sami Jo: As a young coach did you gravitate towards certain types of coaches. I know for myself I used to watch Hockey Night in Canada and just watch the goalies and then I would go check out books from the library and I would just read the books about these goalies. Was there coaches you emulated. Did you find role models, like did you have people you could ask questions to? How did you learn really about how to do that?
Danièle : Well mostly men’s coaches because you know part of the coaching coach pool at that time when we talked about myself, Karen Hughes, Shannon Miller, Melody Davidson that was it you know we did not know each other and we are doing stuff, although Mel came a little later but we were trying to find ways. Obviously for me growing up in Montreal, Scotty Bowman was wow the man and I still remember when I first met him in Chicago with the National team and I was sitting at his desk and he walked in he says “I am sorry I don’t want to disturb you” and I said this is Scotty Bowman and I am sitting on this chair.
Sami Jo: This is your desk!
Danièle : No no, I have two I am also the general manager so I have 2 offices. Would you like to sit down? For sure we want to ask you question! So without knowing the first time I met him in person I felt that I knew him. He is actually from Verdun, where I am sitting right now at the high performance centre in Montreal but for me this is without knowing it was a mentor. I learned to I know his tricks. I was talking to former player that played for him so I want to say this is a man that I look up to. And Clare Drake, that you had the privilege to meet, Clare, the passion for the game you know I still have the notes that he was giving us after every practice and when you talk about details. When you talk about just you know the timing of doing these things Clare Drake was an amazing mentor for the National Team more than the players could realize because he was working with us trying for us to work with you and that’s exactly what I am trying to do here with our coaches you know I basically skate around players and watching playing these different things. You know the goaltender, you know trying to rationale like the game and all that working with coaches I think I’ve learned that from Clare Drake and Scotty Bowman.
Sami Jo: Well the one thing I you know you talk about Scotty Bowman that I didn’t know about him prior to those times in, it was in Chicago we saw him right?
Danièle : That’s right. Actually not in Chicago in Detroit
Sami Jo: So he had his gardening gloves he came on the ice with us very briefly, he had his gardening gloves on is that he could barely skate I mean in fact you were probably ten times the player that he was. You know that surprised me this amazing coach hadn’t played and in my mind that was the first time that I really saw that it is about the skill you have as a coach but what you were able to do was to utilize the people around you and use the skills they had so that you were more of a manager and that’s what I saw Scotty as is you know how can I get the best from each person and so not sure if that is what you took from Scotty Bowman but I certainly see the similarities between your two coaching styles that way.
Danièle : Well when you want to create the best environment you have to look at who could teach the best. Who could get this and then put this thing together. I could recognize in detail what a player does for skating, for like positioning and shooting and all that but I am not certainly not the best player, the best person to show them so why not use the best for that and mark my words I believe the that in 10 years from now, the head coach will not be on the ice at all during training because again it’s behind the bench you could be the best skilled coach in the world but how are you going to manage under pressure your bench and that is another skill-set so and this is where most probably to your point I think this is what Scotty Bowman was great about and at the end you want to have the best around you in order to bring your team and the players to the next level .
Sami Jo: Well and all these elite teams now have skating coaches , they have goalie coaches, they have all the other aspects skills coaches so really managing I think was maybe something that you brought to the game well before most other coaches did so I want to talk a little bit about the 2002 Olympics and managing that team leading into it and I know that you had to raise funds for us to be able to go to Val Cartier To be able to train on the military base. Not only did you have to raise the money but you really had to battle with Hockey Canada to allow us to have that training time. So can you talk a little bit about perhaps the challenges that it took then to help elevate us to the next level because I think you kept a lot of that from us which we are grateful for but it wasn’t easy.
Danièle : Well like I had just done like a series of interviews here in Quebec and we were in with the National Team we were between two and I had done a series and then Dan O’Neill who was the president of Molson at the time called me and said could we meet? Well the only time we can possibly meet is probably today because I am on a plane tomorrow morning at 6:30 and I won’t be back for awhile so if you want to meet in person that is the time. So we met and Dan, what he wanted to do at first is give us money if we were going to win gold and I said no. I’m always going to remember he looked at me like, this is probably the first time that’s someone’s telling me “no” for receiving money. We don’t need it then, if we want to get there we need it now and he asked me how would you use the money and for me it was very easy at the time we didn’t have cell phones so I don’t know if you remember that but it was like to get those cards to call home. Meal cards that we could use at U. of C. to eat properly, to have the parents coming to the Olympics, having computers for all the staff to track be able to track the game and analyze the game to have Karen Hughes more often, to have a goalie coach that was Dave coming from Toronto. So I he just went and he said okay now I kind of know what you want and obviously what you don’t have. So he says put me a plan put a plan together and send it to me and so that night I put a plan together. It was a 2-pager and I did what I just described what I just did at the bottom of the page it was like $272,000! And I said the guy is going to say are you out of your mind and then should II talk to hockey Canada or not but I don’t know if it is going to work so maybe they should be happy if that happens and if it doesn’t well they won’t know.
Sami Jo: Extra money right?
Danièle : Yeah, so I pressed and then just as before I was going to Halifax and then when I land, we didn’t have those cells phones so I got to the hotel mid-morning Yes, that was the yes so I said “damn, we didn’t ask for enough”!
Sami Jo: You could have got more.
Danièle : So that’s how we got services for me it was about services like creating this environment bringing more details to our game. More people around it in order for at the end of the day for you the players and then after you know walked into the dressing room after we won gold and basically he walked by me and he says now you cannot tell me no because you cannot say anything and this is when he announced that he was going to give you the players the cheque of $20,000! So $500,000 so this is what he had in mind
Sami Jo: And you didn’t know that prior.
Danièle : I did not know that prior.
Sami Jo: Wow!
Danièle : So at the end of the day we got ¾ of a million so I have learned sometimes you have to say no. You have to say, you know this doesn’t fit with the value of what we are building and I didn’t want you or us as a team to go for prize money. We needed to create the environment to have the best performance and that was going to come if it had to come so that’s the story behind it. So obviously when Hockey Canada found out, “well you didn’t talk to me about” and I remember it I don’t know if you remember the back of Father Bauer arena, there was a staircase there and I was sitting there and I said I think I just lost my job trying to get money and at the end I asked myself the question – if that happens – so be it because my intention was obviously genuine and I was trying to get you the program Hockey Canada and then obviously you know the rest. He stayed within Hockey Canada, he stayed around and he became a champion of the game and that’s my short story with Dan O’Neill and when I found out that he passed away it was like, oh boy you know and we kept in contact over the years talking about different things and so that was for us, adding those services I believe I truly believe that he made a difference.
Sami Jo: Well I think what it did was created the foundation for the team for generations it, you know I can remember joining the team in ‘98 and entering the dressing room and there being free gum and being so excited there’s free gum and having no expectations. After 2002 you provided the coaching staff and Hockey Canada provided us with so much that all we had to worry about was hockey and from that moment forward I think it changed that changed the program and I think that’s ultimately why there was success for the next 4 years is that foundation of belief that it is the holistic hockey player not just the person showing up on the ice. You coached that year which coached us to a gold medal, what would you say was probably the hardest part of coaching that National Team?
Danièle : Was to keep the belief going you know again we were not going to win a medal in November, December or January and what we forget is that after ‘98 because Team USA won the gold they pretty much stayed centralized for 4 years and as you know we were not. We continued to have the 4 nation cup, even the 3 nation cup one year to have different camps.
Sami Jo: And we had our club teams still right that we could play with.
Danièle : That’s right but it was not at the training level the off-ice level and a year prior to the Olympics I remember we were in Denver. I asked Steve Norris to come with us. Steve Norris was our strength and conditioning physiologist had never played hockey in his life and I said come with us because I would like you to tell me what you think about team USA. And when we came back he says no way, we need to start now if we want to possibly be at the level that Team USA is and yeah but there is World Championship coming up in 3 months and I remember meeting with Bob Nicholson and Bob said that yeah I totally agree you’re going to change the training, they’re probably going to be over training by April, I agree with all this you have a plan go for it, stood up and just as I was getting out of his office and said “oh by the way coach you still have to win Worlds this year”. Okay like how are we going to manage that but we changed and I said if want to win gold in a year we need to start now and this is what was hard to manage – starting 14 months prior to the Olympics. To say we need to keep going because when things are not going well results-wise, it is easy to change path and I kept saying we you know for a moment of pleasure meaning winning a hockey game now, we are not to jeopardizing our happiness and I kept saying that to even if at one point I said “Am I the right person to coach that team or to put the team together, is it that vision is going to work?” So that was the hardest to say it’s a big puzzle our house is not going be as big Team USA but we are going to be ready in February and up till then we need to keep working on things and as you remember we lost so many games because of their power play. We worked so much on ours but again there was so much going on behind closed door that you don’t share all of this. It’s impossible to share hours of meeting to a meeting with the players, a 15 minute meeting so of course we were trying to and again I started I said we need to develop autonomy. We need to develop responsibility. We need the players to take charge because at the end I cannot carry the puck. I cannot pass the puck so the decisions they’re going to make on the ice – we need to develop that. That’s why the beginning of the year, it’s like a hockey school we do so many things but yeah after that we are going to put that into a system. I didn’t know it was going to work but that for me was – we are climbing a mountain but stop looking up, just look at the next step and for me that was the hardest when we talk about belief that things are going to be okay but this was the closest that I needed to say “it’s gonna be okay but we needed to continue towards that and not change the plan”.
Sami Jo: You had conviction, right I mean had we lost in 2002, it sounds like you still would have still done the same thing. You still would have had the ultimate belief that what you were doing was on the right path did you communicate that with the leadership crew? I mean I think what made us really strong also in 2002 was this amazing leadership core that we had through Cassie ,Hayley and Vicky and they just complimented each other very well did you make a conscious effort to think about their personalities coming together and how they were kind of forward facing presenting to us as well.
Danièle : That is another great question because obviously conviction, that’s the right word actually but and I should say and what I believe and how we are going to put the plan together sometimes it is hard to explain. Even if you put great document, it’s like seeing things in your head that you cannot even express or put on paper and what I believe though is that because of the differences in their trait of personality they were going to reach the room. They were going to within them they were going to reach to continue in their own way in their own words with their own action, to make sure the team was going to come together and as you know we had different trips for different reason being planned and then we went to Emerald Lake and Emerald Lake was for the players to glue – to be like away from almost you. I think I’ve seen the team together at meals, we put things together but this is what we want again it’s trial and error because you don’t know how the players will take that responsibility to increase the autonomy of the team by itself so I want to say yes probably if we were having a panel they would say well you know I am learning things today because I do learn even 19 years after different meetings that you guys have but again this is beautiful at the end of the day you win as players a gold medal. We just put the framework together
Sami Jo: Well I think, I think the team wins but ultimately the team wins but you could have made a lot of different choices when it came to leadership but the fact that you had 3 really distinct personalities I think you’re right it reached the room. Hayley led with her ability to have that intensity to work hard and us want to be as good as Hayley, Cassie was that person that would stand up in the room and motivate you and then Vicky was making sure that everyone is having a good time so the 3 or them really complimented each other so well we went out and obviously there was a lot going on and tonnes of penalties as you remember and ultimately you coached us to a gold medal victory. That moment probably still you can probably still picture that moment because I can still picture what I was doing in that moment but tell us what happened when you came home and you know I think when you achieve a pinnacle of success early in your career and it really was early in your coaching career what happens after that and why did you ultimately step away from women’s hockey after that.
Danièle : Well I was 39 years old so yes I was quite young in a sense that I could have kept going but again for me that is the objective is to create an environment that I wished that it would have continued because I had created of in Calgary, Toronto and Montreal and this is only this year in this centre is coming back to life kind of thing but when I came home I had like the biggest decisions to make I couldn’t continue to work 80 hours a week. I couldn’t continue to take sabbatical month and year to coach at the Olympics from my police career. I had 17 years
Sami Jo: And have to move your whole life to Calgary. Right, that would have been difficult.
Danièle : Which would have been okay in a sense but then you know, you’re single, you kind of say “okay now what” – like I have policing and have hockey and now if I want to have a personal life between the two how could I continue to obviously live my passion and I was not getting paid that much so that’s another but you know when you go back you kind of say I could have continued. I have 16 years of policing achieved and policing is another world is passionate, it’s helping people, it’s putting a strategic plan together, it’s democracy and then you have hockey, that you love but it’s like not a job yet. It’s not at the level we know now so that’s why today. It’s hard for me to understand or accept that a young coach says well I don’t really get paid much hey you know what that is twice what I used to make as the national and GM of the National Team program so that’s the decision I made and again I knew that when I took this chair and I said this to Melody Davidson. I know she was competing against sort of me in a healthy way to be the head coach – “Don’t worry after 2002, after the next Olympics, I’ve been there for 2 Olympics already I’ve been there for almost 15 years. The National Team if we lose, easy I’m out fired bye-bye but if we win I’m going to say now what? How could I get myself to the next level and make sure people are going to live what I did and helping truly helping the next generation and this is where I think I believe that Mel said I might have a chance to take your seat when obviously after the 2002 Olympics so that was it I didn’t talk to many people about it, I remember Bob Nicholson says can we go to lunch we like you to move, right now I am going home and lets reconnect. Looking back I should have waited a little longer not necessary to stay as a head coach but to stay connected to Hockey Canada and preserve what we have built I think there was a gap of 3-4 years where and we kind of lost and again I don’t want to point out anything again it’s just that when you know you develop different relationships with across the country. Ken Dufton is one of them. Just to continue to build that and parallel stay with the National Team as you can imagine I was tired, sick actually I had 2 pneumonia going through the 2002 Olympics so I was quite low in my energy but that is the only to stay a little longer or to stabilize that and accompany the next coach but then one morning I got up and said well I should I said just basically I should say to Mel whoever this is the path and I’ll be there I always said since day one, I was only a phone call away.
Sami Jo: Well your life has certainly taken so many twist and turns since then you have been involved in 7 Olympic games which is pretty incredible with various different sports you probably have learnt so much through all those different experiences that you’ve had.
Danièle : For sure.
Sami Jo: I’m going to get into your new venture which sounds really exciting but I first I just want back track to mentioned Ken Dufton who was my coach for a long time. You know, he speaks so highly of you. And you two are complete opposite ends of the spectrum but you guys worked so well together. What do you really made that partnership work? And what did you look for in coaching staffs when you were putting together your team?
Danièle : We have to go back to ‘99. Actually, when I was named head coach in ‘99. And this is where we started to do individual evaluation feedback with Karen and Ken. But when Bob Nicholson at the time asked me, he says, “Who would you like to coach with?” Karen and Ken came up right away and why Ken? Because every time that we were coaching against, we were just going at it, and I was like, Okay, what does he do it? What does he do to develop, like, you know, you have like, upcoming players for years, every year was like, Okay, what is he doing? And I did not know him. And I said, he does something that I want to know what he does in order to be so successful. And I wanted him, even if we knew that we were going but we’re seeing things in a different light. And for me, as a police officer, if you could see a situation with two different angles – well, there’s a plus. So I wanted to have these people around me that we’re not seeing, thinking and even appreciate things in the same way because we were going to be and we that was an amazing year, we brought back gold at the ‘99 Finland World Championship with at the time the youngest Team Canada at that particular time. Now I don’t know who is who has been or which team has been that the youngest but I remember that I thought I was there for four years. And then we were asked to go to Calgary for debrief. And then I flew in one day earlier and then they told me that, you know, they want to need to do work with the Under-22 Team and they wanted to try other coaches. And I said, No, no, no, no, me, I thought was there for four years. And then I said, I’m going back home. And I’m going to think about what I’m going to do next. So when I arrive at the airport, Kevin and Karen arrived and said, “Where are you going?” We thought you were there. Yesterday, I said going back home, and I told them about that in for them was I cannot believe it. Like, you know, we don’t even want to be part of this program anymore. And I said, Don’t worry, I’m just going to rethink about. And obviously, I’m going to believe that what they just told me that they got to rethink about it a year from now. And this is when I coach Junior major on the on the men’s side.
Sami Jo: So Rocket, is that correct? With the Rocket?
Danièle : Yes, that’s right. So the experience was amazing. So you know, again, go back, I cannot coach you to see what else could I do in order to get to the next level and for me was not to go to the under 22 team was to go to the next level. And then I came back. And then they told me who I was going to coach with was Wally, as well as Melody. And I brought back here and I one point in the process with Dan O’Neill, obviously support. So what made us a good team, it’s because we respect each other. I believe that we had some sort of success with both of our team with different traits of character. But the two plus Karen, we had fun, we were able to talk to each other. We didn’t have any filter. We didn’t have any grudges, it was the way it was. And I think this is what helps to bring a team together is what you don’t have you have to have it on your team and you have to have the number one value is loyalty. What I tell you, it’s my I had good intention, and vice versa. And I think that as a coaching staff, we had that with Karen and Ken.
Sami Jo: Well, what was built in Toronto, was light years ahead of everything else and women’s hockey. And you’re right, he really put together a program. Starting with a junior team. I can remember when I joined the Aeros, and it was all about fair and equitable ice. And I thought, you know, what kind of elite program is this. But ultimately, he had the belief in each individual, and he developed each player, I can remember, Haley Irwin coming in as a 16 year old and she’s there. She’s playing power-play next to Jennifer Botterill. And he just he developed, you know, and that was one thing that I think was so great about him at the time, and why he was so successful. But now that’s exactly what you’re doing in Quebec. So, tell us about the Centre 2102 Is that how you say at 2102? I know, that’s the day we won the gold medal. So I love the name. But tell us a little bit about what brought you back into women’s hockey at this point in your life, and what you’re hoping to build in Montreal.
Danièle : I never left the game in the sense that, in ’09, I built and started the Montreal University program, the French University program, I believe in youth sport, you know, that I cannot, you know, talk enough about the youth sport and keeping our player here in Canada. And then within 10 years, we’re trying twice, I mean, we won two gold medal. And then like, about four years ago, I was working with Meg Hewings, that you know, the GM of the Canadiens again, and trying to, you know, kind of be a mentor, you know, a mentor behind closed door. And, you know, I was watching it, but I didn’t, I did not need to be right there. And then one day had a change of coaches. I came back because, you know, in many ways, nobody wanted to coach I said, well, let’s bring possibly Caroline Ouellette, I’m going to help her. I want her to lead. I want her to make those mistakes. I want her to experience the game to feel the game and all that. And then as you know, the league when I don’t know where I still don’t know why I still don’t why? :You know, that’s, and then I said, Well, I think that’s the perfect time to bring back, you know, a dream project, which is a High Performance Center. And in order to do that, I really wanted to be recognized by the government. Because like other sport and this is where my experience with other sports brain brought me to a high performance like short drive speed skating, Water Polo, these are not centralized, but they have, you know, training center across the country, swimming is one of them. So I said, we’re going to create one in Montreal here that even if that professional league comes back it’s not all our players that will be able to play at that level. So it’s like the farm team of the Montreal Canadiens. And this is when I knock at the door of Geoff Molson says, this is great, because obviously, it’s a farm team for the next level, keeping some of our university player within the process in order to play eventually, Pro. So this is what I wanted to put together. So of course, as I said, it’s going to happen like this, but, you know, trying to find funds, you know, partners, that’s going to believe in a project that does not exist, that it’s not there that has not been, you know, created across the country. But yes, Geoff Molson was there the you know, the government that INS which is the sport Institute of Quebec, I needed to have the recognition of hockey Quebec, which is a member of hockey Canada, as soon as I have that, well, obviously, this is one eight, they went on, and we have now Sunlife and BFL as funding, like main funding partner, which is great, because in order to create those, you need to have a champion that like Dan O’Neill. And so that, you know, the president of BFL and the president of Sunlife are great champion of the game believing in a project that you know, it’s hard to understand. And you also have the PW, which is a voice trying to knock out doors to create like a league. But in the meantime, even if you play 365 showcases a year, you need to train five days a week, you need to be organized, or face having the camera having the video in place. So for me, it’s like a mini-centralization. And now we have 28 players because of COVID. And we haven’t stopped being on the ice even if most of you know most of the people across the country cannot be on the ice.
Sami Jo: So it’s for carded athletes?
Danièle :Right, it’s for carded athletes.
Sami Jo: And what do they get? What is the system entail?
Danièle : Oh, yes to be on the ice five times a week having skill coach for, you know the forward and goalie, we have our own dressing room. Right now we have five dressing rooms, obviously. But this is a home for women’s hockey. The plan is done to build a gym, to possibly have those, you know, machine or face machine to do puck handling and all that we’ll have a system camera that we could track, obviously, individually and so on and so forth, we’ll have our own little clinic. So it’s like a minI again centralization. So now we are in phase one, which is like the ice the dressing room. And as soon as we could get people into build the rest will do and hopefully it’s going to happen over the summer. And yes, carded athletes, and the carded athlete and the next gen. So we want to work with university in order to bring on the ice their best player over the summer. And we want to go even, lower, but younger than that in order to say to bring kids here with skill session at the age of 12. You know, so the next best gen, obviously, so this is where we want to do. Quebec is the second biggest province in Canada and women’s hockey, we’re fourth right now. And I’d like to know why. And I don’t like to have it there. So that is part also to increase the numbers of hockey player in this country, increase the elite player in this country and obviously, to create and to be the foundation of a professional team.
Sami Jo: You envisioned this hub in 2002, and you’re getting to finally create it. So that must be really exciting. But what I love about it, it is it is unique in this country. I you know, I think back to the Toronto Aeros organization, we had that and at times going to National Team camp, there’d be 15 of us going to National Team camp, it was just that was the expectation was that elite level. The Calgary Oval Extreme had that under Shannon Miller and had a real program that would pull people away from all these different provinces. And I saw that you guys are starting to do that as well. And so it’s shown that getting to play with elite players matters and getting to be in that environment matters. I saw Kristen O’Neill from here in Oakville just up and moved because it was a chance to get on the ice every day. And the world that we’re in women’s hockey right now, there’s a lot of uncertainty as we both know. But what I love is that you’re bridging the gap, you’re building those bridges so that whether it’s both sides, both parties, whatever you want to call it in women’s hockey, can have those conversations and that sometimes those conversations happen in the dressing room, that’s where the players are going to figure it out. And so you’re providing that opportunity. So once again, you’re leading, and I wish you nothing but success with le Centre.
Danièle : For the day 21, February 21 2002. So that’s why we just get 2102. And basically, we’re writing to it. So but I promise that you’re going to be invited when we going to officially open the center. Notice, you know, for the last week or in the next week or so we will celebrate the name. And in order to get out there and have people know that then you’re right when you say that Toronto did that, and even years ago, and I was with Shannon when we created the Oval, and now being you know, part of the system is the sports system being recognized being able to receive money from the government. This is where I believe that we will stay a little longer and will endure.
Sami Jo: You’re recreating it. I mean, those two centers, Toronto and Calgary don’t exist anymore. So you now are the leaders and I look forward to the next 10-15 years women’s hockey to see what these players can do with that opportunity. So I just can’t wait to see those girls back on the ice hopefully sooner rather than later. Well, that’s for sure.
Danièle : Well, thank you, Sami, and thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure. It’s a pleasure. Thank you. Thank you.
Music/Man voice: Thank you for listening to Sami Jo’s Podcast. If you have suggestions for guests in the future, would like to book her for your next event, advertise on this podcast or to purchase a her latest book, The Role I Played please go to www.samijosmall.ca