Edward Little/Leavitt/Poland girls hockey coach Dana Berube keeps his daughter in check on the ice while balancing being a dad and coach. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

AUBURN — Isabel Berube has experienced plenty of highs and lows during her hockey career, and through both the good and the bad there was always one person there to experience them with her.

Her dad.

For the past two years that father-daughter bond has also been one of coach-player, since Dana Berube took over as the head coach of the Edward Little/Leavitt/Poland Red Hornets girls hockey team before Isabel’s sophomore season. It’s a role that Dana accepted only after conferring with Isabel first.

“I asked her when the job came up if she would be comfortable with me being the head coach, and what that entailed and how that could put pressure on both of us, and she was actually really encouraging me to do it since I knew all the girls,” Dana Berube said.

Berube joined Shon Collins’ staff as a volunteer assistant the year before, with an eye toward the future of possibly taking over the head role from Collins, who was looking to move on.

Isabel, who goes by “Bell” around her family and longtime friends and is “Izzy” to many of her Red Hornets teammates, said she was excited to have her dad become the head coach. But it hasn’t come without its challenges.

“I think everyone probably knows he’s actually harder on me than he is anyone else,” Isabel said. “I think everyone realizes that on the ice, too. Because like if I’m goofing around or something on the ice, he’ll tell me to stop quicker than he would to some other girls. But I would say everyone’s on board with it.”

Edward Little/Leavitt/Poland girls hockey coach Dana Berube. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

The now-senior said there are times when she wishes her dad wasn’t behind the bench, namely when she takes “dumb penalties, or like mess something up that I know I should have done better on.”

“But then,” she adds, “sometimes it kind of helps me having that support back on the bench.”

Dana and Isabel’s relationship — on the ice or off — has always been about support.

The love of hockey started on a backyard rink Dana made with his brother Denis, who also happened to be his next-door neighbor.

“She was all geared up when she was 4, and she was out there and skating all night long, and I would have to drag her in and tell her, ‘Hey, getting a little chilly here, let’s take a break,'” Dana said.

That was before the coaching aspect entered the fray.

“She didn’t want any coaching back then,” Dana said. “Pretty much put her skates on and let her go. There was no coaching. It was just, ‘Go slap the puck around and have fun.'”

Edward Little hockey player Isabel Berube. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Berube eventually took on some assistant coaching roles with Isabel’s various youth teams, and whether he was or he wasn’t one of her coaches, he was always there to give her some pointers or advice.

Isabel said there were mixed emotions about having her father behind the bench growing up.

“Like even though he was on the bench sometimes it didn’t always feel like he was my coach, you know what I mean? He was like still in the stands. Like he would still give me pointers and all that,” she said.

Dana has made it a point during his Red Hornets tenure to not do any more coaching interaction with Isabel than he has to, instead letting his assistants do the talking.

“It was better, and we kind of had made a rule over the last couple years, once we get home hockey’s over and we go back to being father-daughter,” Dana said. “Because it’s stressful enough. It’s (supposed to be) fun.”

Isabel said there are times when hockey can’t be ignored outside the rink, namely after big games or tough losses.

The toughest loss of all during her career was when she lost the game of hockey for some time.

“Isabel has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, so she’s had several years taken away from her that she couldn’t play,” Dana said. “For instance, she played on the Gladiators travel teams in fifth and sixth grade, and she didn’t play hockey at all in middle school. She gets the bigger picture, because she has a passion for hockey and she’s had it taken away from her, with nothing that she could control.”

Dana said Isabel had a hard time even going to the rink to watch her friends and teammates play, so she got her fill of hockey from watching the Bruins play, which she did with her dad. It was in those moments that Dana realized just how much knowledge and passion his daughter had for the game.

“She would literally stop (the game), rewind it, and be like, ‘Dad, see that breakout? That’s something we’re doing in …'” Dana said. “You know, it got to a point where it was like, ‘Hey, that’s awesome, but let’s watch the game. Let’s just enjoy it.'”

Isabel said having a coach for a dad has helped her with the mental side of the game.

“I feel like I analyze things more,” she said. “I know where to be, where to go, because it’s always in the back of my head.”

And having that push from her father as a coach has helped her grow as a player.

“Makes me want, like my work ethic, it makes me want to keep going and push farther, and further and further,” she said.

That push has brought Isabel to the final season of her high school career. There was a moment of realization with her fellow senior teammates during preseason that it was their last tryouts, and that there will be a lot of lasts. She said the seniors are going to try to cherish every moment they have this season.

“We’re excited, but there’s mixed emotions,” she said. “We’re sad for it to end, but we’re excited to get it going.”

There are emotions for Dana as well, who has seen Isabel’s growth as a player and a person up close these past three, going on four, seasons.

“And this year, you know, I think she’s matured so much in the last nine months since the end of last season that we’re just very excited about this season, for her and for the whole team,” Dana said.

While Isabel isn’t a captain by name this season, or even an associate captain — “We had that conversation, but you don’t need an ‘A’ or a ‘C’ on your jersey to be a leader,” Dana said — she is a leader for the Red Hornets. And maybe in the future she will be the leader of a team of her own.

“Probably later in the future, or definitely have my kids go into it. Definitely keep it going,” Isabel said. “But I could see myself coaching. I like doing learn-to-play and helping out with that.”

Dana said that he plans to keep coaching the Red Hornets for “quite some time because I love hockey and love coaching. But to have one more year with her is special, obviously.”

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.