Well respected, but not well understood, senior co-captain Danielle Bilodeau holds a quiet but forceful presence on the women’s ice hockey squad.
Bilodeau is often described as versatile, powerful, smart and fast. She is an intense player and she takes every minute of practice and competition seriously, as she is constantly “raising the bar” of expectations for herself and her teammates.
It all started one Christmas day in Winnipeg, Manitoba, when little Dani received a Wayne Gretzky Barbie doll.
“It’s a Canadian thing — I just fell in love with hockey. I borrowed some skates from a family friend and went to practice with the boys when I was six or seven. I played one year of full-contact hockey with boys and then, it was time to move on,” Dani said of her childhood experiences.
From there, Bilodeau went on to play many successful years of club hockey before deciding to cross the border. Girls’ hockey was not as popular as it is today and the skill level was not as high, but Dani stuck with it and earned a position at Cornell to do what she loves most.
It’s a decision that she doesn’t regret one bit.
“The most rewarding part is the people I have met. When you have a tough day, you go out on the ice and see 20 other people who are having a tough day, but are soldiering through it with a smile on their face and still encouraging one another. It really keeps me going,” Dani commented.
Bilodeau’s teammates think of her just as highly. They respect her prowess on the ice and her leadership in all areas. Teaching by example is Dani’s choice and the other players really admire her individual style.
“Dani provides a lot of leadership by example. She pushes herself hard and she has high expectations for herself and for the team. She really boosts the team’s goals up by having such strong goals herself,” senior forward Erica Olson said of her linemate.
After coming to Cornell, the biggest difference Bilodeau noticed in her level of play was the strength of her opponents. Her physical game has changed drastically since she arrived in Ithaca as a result of the weightlifting regimen to which all Cornell athletes must become accustomed.
In the weight room, you will find Dani’s name on the “Wall of Power” — the coveted spot for Cornell’s toughest and fittest athletes. This is her second year in making the “Wall”.
“My physical play has changed a lot. With the weightlifting program, I have gotten a lot stronger. [Head coach Carol Mullins] looks for me to create space for myself with my skating and my strength,” Bilodeau said of her increased power.
Throughout Bilodeau’s career, she has used her strength as she has alternated between the red and blue lines. This season, however, it looks like she will be a steady forward for the Big Red. Each of the last three years, Dani has reached double digits in the assist column and she hopes to continue that trend this season.
In the 82 games that have spanned her career, Bilodeau has collected 61 points on 22 goals and 39 assists. In 1997-98, Dani won the team’s rookie of the year award and the Jeff Stenstrom Memorial Award for the freshman athlete who best exemplifies team spirit and sportsmanship. Even as a freshman, she was recognized for her attitude and potential on and off the ice.
In the rink, Dani’s performance is often mesmerizing and her teammates are forced to improve in her presence.
“Dani is one of the more versatile players we have. She can really make a player better and make them stand out, which is a huge attribute. She’s a player that can make things happen,” Mullins said of Dani’s ice time.
“She’s got a lot of speed, she’s very powerful and she can make it happen. Her sense of the game is amazing,” freshman forward Bri Jentner commented.
In the first game this season, Dani scored a short-handed goal against Niagara’s Tania Pinelli, one of the most formidable goalkeepers in the ECAC. Despite her humility, Dani’s name will most likely be found on the stat sheets many more times as the season moves ahead and as she gains more offensive strength.
Although Dani will graduate this May, her hockey career will not end. Not many female athletes are lucky enough to say that they will be continuing their sport after college. Danielle Bilodeau is one of the fortunate few, however. Dani is excited to journey up to Toronto and play for a semi-pro team for a few years.
“I just don’t want to look back when I’m 30 and regret that I didn’t play when I could. The opportunity is there, so I am taking advantage of it,” she explained. “It’s not going to be real profitable. I’m playing for the same reason I have always played — because I love it.”
Before hitting the semi-pro league, Bilodeau has some business to take care of on the East Hill.
“I would just like to come up big for the team in key situations — when we need to win a game or kill off a penalty,” Dani said. “My job is to score goals, set people up, make my teammates better players and be a leader. The judges of that are my teammates and myself.”
Archived article by Kelli Larsen