Sunday, May 19, 2024

Hall of famer returns to campus

Danielle Blanchard at the University Police Department on campus April 10.

 

 

By Michael Purtell

Danielle Blanchard is one of the greatest figures in Cardinals Athletics in history. Her career was a part of every Cardinals women’s ice hockey NCAA championship as a coach and a player, Division I competition and a Hall of Fame inauguration. Now, Cardinals know her as the University Police dispatcher.

Blanchard was hired as SUNY Plattsburgh’s University Police dispatcher in February. After fostering and putting to use the skills she honed as a Cardinal on the ice, now she uses the skills she gained from her studies to pursue a career in communications.

“I have a background in communications — I guess my official title would be communications officer here on campus — so I’m able to use the degree that I had gotten at Plattsburgh as well,” Blanchard said.

Blanchard,  a Newmarket, Ontario native,  returned to Plattsburgh in order to be closer to her family. The decision came alongside the choice to step away from her coaching career.

“It had been a grind over the last 11 years or so of coaching and I just wanted a little bit more balance,” Blanchard said.

Her collegiate coaching career began where her collegiate playing career had — with the Cardinals. Blanchard made her first return to campus in 2013 as an assistant coach. In the role, she helped the team achieve five NCAA championships in six years.

 


Provided by Plattsburgh State Athletics

Danielle Blanchard celebrating the 2019 NCAA championship win with the Cardinals as an assistant coach. The trophy was the seventh national title Blanchard played a part in for Plattsburgh State.

 

After her success, Blanchard was given the opportunity to be the assistant coach at several Division I programs, beginning with a two year stint for Yale from 2019-2021 and ending with a year at Merrimack College this past season.

She also gained head coaching experience at Division III UMass-Boston through 2021-2023, where she coached the team to two New England Hockey Conference tournament appearances.

The success that followed Blanchard as a coach was no coincidence. As a player and a coach, she learned from one of the most successful DIII coaches of all time, Plattsburgh’s Kevin Houle.

Houle and Blanchard have remained in touch throughout Blanchard’s post-Cardinal career, discussing scouting decisions and season’s challenges, Houle said. The connection helped them both, but Blanchard was successful because of her talent as a coach first.

“She has that innate ability to coach and connect with people,” Houle said.

Alongside her reconnection with Houle, Blanchard has experienced a new connection with her old team as a fan and a friend, Blanchard said. Even when work conflicted with the season’s schedule, Blanchard supported the team through the broadcast view, and got a good look at the team’s postseason run.

“I’m definitely in support of the team and wishing them all the best,” Blanchard said. “I wasn’t surprised they were in the tournament again, and it looks like they have a pretty good core moving forward as well.”

Coming from such a decorated skater, the compliment is high praise.

Blanchard’s first season on the ice she was named a Second Team All-American and she would go on to earn First Team spots for the rest of her collegiate career. She was the first Cardinal from the women’s hockey team to earn four selections.

Blanchard’s career was full of firsts. She led the Cardinals to its first NCAA championship in 2006-07 and then did it again in 2007-08. She was named the Plattsburgh State Athlete of the Year both years for getting the team over the hump.

Blanchard was also the first Cardinal to earn the Laura Hurd award in 2007-08, an honor given to the NCAA’s top DIII skater. Since then, three other Cardinals have earned the honor.

Her player resume was so impressive, she was inducted into the Plattsburgh Athletics Hall of Fame on her first eligible ballot in 2019, exactly 10 years after her graduation.

“She was just one of those players that you don’t often see,” Houle said. “She was a clutch performer and she was the player that really got us over the top in terms of winning those first two titles as a relatively new program at the time.”

Now Blanchard is making a new impact on Plattsburgh working alongside the University Police, where they are lucky to have her, Houle said.

“(Blanchard is) just an honest and hard-working individual, and someone that really cares about the people she works with,” Houle said. “Just a great all-around human being.”

Blanchard feels the same way about the Campus Police. Working with great officers and staff at Plattsburgh has been the biggest perk of her new job, Blanchard said.

“I’m definitely enjoying being a dispatcher,” Blanchard said. “This is a really great position for me.”

 

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