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Photo by David Moll

Dinos hockey hits the ice again for 2021-22 season

By Ava Zardynezhad, November 25 2021—

After a year off the ice, the Dinos Hockey teams are back at the Father David Bauer Arena this season. It’s been a few months since the men’s and the women’s teams have started competing and a month since the Canada West games have begun. As the teams strive to find their footing, we took a look back at the sentiments shared by the players and coaches before the start of the season.

For the Men’s teams, the hockey season ended during the Canada West playoffs in February of 2020, when they lost the semi-finals (4–5) to the University of Saskatchewan Huskies in double overtime. 

“It’s been a really difficult 18 months for everybody — emotionally, physically and mentally,” said Head Coach Mark Howell. “We stayed in touch [with the team] and have been around one another a little bit, but a lot of it is over Zoom. My concern was always their mental and emotional wellbeing. It’s always hard when you’re an elite athlete to not be able to do what you do.”

Of course, returning to the ice after 18 months does not necessarily make the smoothest transition. Considering most public training facilities were closed due to the pandemic during this time, returning to hockey meant getting back in shape individually and as a team. 

Photo by David Moll

Many of the team’s veteran players graduated in 2020, replaced with recruits. 

“The players who came in last year are all brand new,” said Howell. “They practiced a little bit with us for a couple months, but overall, everybody’s going to be new to what we do. I would say, two-thirds of our roster will be brand new.” 

Howell explained his key concerns for the team are  to ensure all members have integrated smoothly and that everyone is fit to play. 

“I think it’s gonna be a long road back — it’s not just going to be a quick fix.” 

Nonetheless, the news of returning to sports had the entire team excited after having to spend a season off the ice. 

“I think you know we’re anticipating having a really good season,” said Howell. “We got a really good group of players and guys are anxious to get going and get back to regular life.” 

So far, the men’s team is ranked fourth in the league. The road to recovery is slow, but the team persistently seems to be regaining their footing. 

Though the women’s team finished the 2019-2020 season under similar circumstances, they have undergone more changes since. The team’s season also ended during the Canada West playoffs, after a double overtime 0–1 loss against the Mount Royal Cougars during the semi-finals. 

Since then, not only have the players of the team changed, but they’ve also had a change in the coaching staff. Earlier in 2021, former Head Coach Danielle Goyette left the team for a position with the Toronto Maple Leafs. After many months of searching, the Dinos finally hired former National Women’s Team superstar and two-time Olympic gold medalist, Carla McLeod, in August. 

“In a team environment, there’s always some adapting that you have to do and for us,” said Goyette. “We have new incoming players this year and again from last year who didn’t have the whole team dynamic. So, there’s a lot of newness everywhere, which gives us a bit of a blank slate to figure out who and what we want to be.”

Photo by David Moll

Despite where the team stands in terms of a starting point, McLeod finds value in rebuilding the team from its foundations. 

“What we quickly realize and appreciate is the day-to-day habits and it’s understanding what it takes to get to [winning championships].”

One thing is for certain — the players are the most eager to be back. Fourth-year player Elizabeth Lang is excited to compete again after 18 months off the ice. 

“I think every player and every team had a year to get stronger, fitter and better, so with that, I think it will be a more competitive season,” said Lang. “I think this will give people that much more desire to want to work harder and play harder, so that’s exciting.”. 

A year away from the sport they love has certainly boosted motivation for these athletes. 

“For [this season] and for the extra years that I’ve got, I want the University of Calgary to be a powerhouse team and the best possible team that can be,” Lang said 

Up to this point, the women’s team has been a little shakier than usual, but considering the almost-complete reconstruction of the team, their efforts and dedication must be recognized and saluted. We hope all the best for both teams this season.

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