By Sasha Abrams
Boston University News Service
Many factors have contributed to BU men’s ice hockey’s turnaround in the 2022-23 season, including a wave of first-years. One unheralded first-year for BU didn’t play a single shift but helped BU reach new heights: professional figure skater turned BU skating coach Jessica Dupuis.
“They’re top athletes, they love to be challenged and they want to see how far they can be pushed,” Dupuis said. “They want to see what their feet and their bodies are capable of doing.”
Over this past summer, a select few trained with Dupuis to improve their skating skills.
“Jess was really good this summer,” senior forward Sam Stevens said. “It was my first summer working with her, but I know it was really important to me kind of getting those positions that you’re uncomfortable in; really just getting ready for the season.”
Dupuis worked with Stevens, senior forward Matt Brown, and senior forward Jamie Armstrong on individual weaknesses in their skating, challenging them to do things they never thought their bodies could do when on the ice.
Dupuis, from West Townsend, started skating when she was eight years old and eventually became a US Figure Skating Gold Medalist, a soloist at Disney on Ice, and is still skating in winter shows in Boston, continuing her career as a professional figure skater.
“I was actually eight at the time, which was a pretty late start for figure skating,” Dupuis said. “Then I got a flyer in school a couple weeks later for a three week program at the Groton School, so I begged my parents to sign me up.”
Dupuis went into the program only skating once before, when she and her older sister went out to their frozen yard after finding a pair of skates in their house while their parents were out one night. She immediately found it to be a fun time after being able to hold herself up and skate.
“I think I passed all three badges in the first day,” Dupuis said. “I just remember skating around with these two boys, and they were chasing me, and the instructor asked how long I’d been skating for, and my parents said, ‘this is our first time.’”
Dupuis graduated high school at 17, working jobs throughout to help her parents support an expensive figure skating career. At age 15, she auditioned for Disney on Ice to start making money while skating, joining the production on Christmas Day in 1996.
“I was also first to understudy Snow White, so I would do like a male role normally and then the next show I would be a princess, so it was pretty neat,” Dupuis said about her seven years on the show.
From an early age, Dupuis knew she wanted to help others become strong skaters, so she turned her attention to assisting others to become successful on the ice. When she finished her time with Disney in 2004, she had an offer right away to be the choreographer at Westborough’s Northstar Rink, where her coaching career began.
“I just felt like I always wanted to be on the other side. And so, I kind of knew from a child that I wanted to coach and I always loved skating skills,” Dupuis said.
While many hockey players work on their skating skills with their coaches, it is unique for a team to have its own skating coach, especially one who is a professional figure skater.
“I wish it was more standard because it’s really beneficial,” Dupuis said. “The best thing is to get them when they’re young and develop their skating skills from the moment they step on the ice.”
“The best hockey players are the best skaters,” Dupuis said. “It’s kind of like having a bigger arsenal of things that you could do with your feet and if you have, let’s say, 100 options versus 25 options, you’re going to benefit more from that because you can get in and out of situations a lot quicker and a lot more gracefully.”
Dupuis continues her professional career as a figure skating coach, a professional hockey skills coach and the Aspire Advanced Skills program director for the Colonial Figure Skating Club.