CHANGING THE GAME - Vermont-Raised Woman Makes History on The Ice12/12/2022 05:01PM ● By NIKKI DAVIDSON
For decades boys have skated around their hometown rinks, fantasizing about making it to the NHL. It’s a daydream for girls too, as the Boston Bruins just hired the league’s first female on-ice coach. It’s a success story that all started in Vermont, and it may never have happened if it wasn’t for a small town’s charm.
Danielle Marmer, the Boston Bruins’ new player development and scouting assistant, says the impact of female presence in the NHL isn’t just about inspiring girls to aim for a future in hockey—rather, it’s changing the game for everybody.
“When I was at the development camp, I had these young boys reaching their arms toward the tunnel, asking me to sign an autograph,” Danielle said. “Those are important moments because they’re going to grow up not surprised when women are coaching them.”
A PLACE OF HER OWN
Born in Massachusetts, Danielle is a Boston Bruins fan to the core. Soon after she started walking, she wanted to be on the ice. As a two-year-old, she begged for a chance to skate with her older sibling at the rink.
“I would just cry and scream, asking when it was going to be my turn,” said Danielle. “[My mom] didn’t know what to do with me.”
With an instructor’s blessing, her mother laced up skates for the wobbly toddler. Danielle says her first steps weren’t like those of a child prodigy—she fell often, but apparently, it never phased her. “I would just pop right back up and keep going,” she said.
The family moved to Dorset when she was still in preschool, ingraining small-town life into who she is today. “I loved going into town and waving at every single person who walked or drove by,” said Danielle, who has since realized that the Vermont lifestyle afforded her freedom. “Just being able to kind of bike around wherever you wanted—to run through the woods and play outside.”
Her mother started the figure skating program at Riley Rink near Manchester before advancing to become the facility’s director, which meant the family lived on the ice. At five years old, Danielle started playing hockey.
THE ROUTE FROM ATHLETE TO COACH
“It was clear that I liked hockey more than anything else I was doing,” recalled Danielle. “I remember running from my mom and my figure skating coach because they were trying to put me in leotards and sparkle hairspray, and I refused and tried to escape. That kind of stuff wasn’t happening in the hockey space.”
But Danielle admits that in the world of competitive hockey, growing up in Dorset made her a “big fish in a small pond.” By the time she was playing hockey for Quinnipiac in 2013, she struggled with feelings of adequacy. “There were a lot of ups and downs and a lot of adversity that I had to face,” said Danielle.
Along the way, her coach, Cassandra Turner, pointed out Danielle had an incredible talent for connecting with and motivating her teammates. When Danielle honed in on those abilities in her junior year of college, the team won the ECAC championship for the first time in the program’s history.
Her senior year, the season ended abruptly in overtime during the quarterfinals. Not ready to put down the stick, she committed to continue hockey through coaching. She worked for Connecticut College as an assistant coach for two years, then returned to Quinnipiac, where her former coach offered her a staff job.
But soon came another big decision, what was next? She had no idea she was about to make history.
MAKING IT TO THE NHL
Danielle applied for the Boston Bruins Diversity and Inclusion Mentorship Program after her second year of working at Quinnipiac and she took the Bruins Job at the end of her third year. She did the program while also working at Quinnipiac.
“I looked at the program as a way to develop my ability to evaluate and project players and do it with NHL scouts,” she said. She spent a year reviewing videos of amateur players and sharing her notes with a mentor who worked for the team. He was so impressed with her work that he asked if she was interested in scouting for the NHL professionally. Of course, she was. But, at that point, she still didn’t believe a job with the team was within reach.
“I definitely had a little bit of imposter syndrome, thinking, ‘Am I good enough to be the first female for the Bruins? Would I even be the person they would choose if they were going to pick a female?’” she remembered.
Danielle admits that at the time, she assumed the NHL’s interest in her was realistically more helpful to get her an actual job offer with a college team. So, when she received an offer from the Bruins, she was shocked.
“You just don’t know which opportunity it’s going to be. Knock on every door because you don’t know which door will be the one that will lead to the NHL or your dream,” she said.
THE FUTURE IS UNWRITTEN
Danielle’s job with the Bruins is to work with both drafted players and the players on the organization’s AHL team, the Providence Bruins.
“I get to work with players who are so driven and excited to get here, and they have this willingness and eagerness because they aren’t yet with the Bruins, but they’re on the brink of being in the NHL,” she said.
She credits her time in Vermont with making her who she is today. She believes her affinity to coaching is thanks to an upbringing that instilled a deep sense of caring and connection to those around her.
“I really think that comes from being from a small town, a small community where you know everybody, and you really care about everybody,” she said.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF DANIELLE MARMER AND THE NHL BOSTON BRUINS