Among one of Manitoba’s greatest ball hockey players, the accomplished career of Chantal Larocque reached another revered summit in 2018. Holding a celebrated status as an elite competitor at the CBHA and ISBHF levels, she has now added the title of coach to her expanding ball hockey legacy.
As the ISBHF hosted its inaugural Under-20 Women’s World Championships in Prerov, Czech Republic, the landmark event represented a brush with history for Larocque. Alongside Giuliana Pallotta, who donned the Maple Leaf at the 2017 ISBHF World Championships, both were named to the coaching staff of Canada’s entry, signifying their international coaching debuts.
Larocque’s competitive ball hockey background is highlighted by a pair of gold medals for Canada at the ISBHF World Championships. The first brought with it a lifetime of memories, as the golden glory took place on home soil, as Canada prevailed at the 2013 ISBHF Worlds in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Two years later, Larocque donned the Maple Leaf once more, contributing towards a second consecutive gold for Canada, as Zug, Switzerland served as the backdrop for an exciting ISBHF Worlds. Along with her role as captain for the Manitoba Rage from 2014-16, representing the province on the slab in numerous CBHA national championships, Larocque added to her medal haul with silver in 2010 and bronze in 2011, respectively.
Complemented by sterling on-ice play with the University of Manitoba Bisons, along with professional stints wearing the sweaters of both the Calgary Oval X-Treme and the Manitoba Maple Leafs of the former Western Women’s Hockey League, the brilliance of her career made her an ideal fit for Canada’s assembly of coaches.
Bringing such a wealth of competitive experience, Larocque’s credentials also involved serving as a coach for Manitoba’s Eastman Female AAA midget ice hockey team, along with a club identified by the nomenclature of Interlake Lightning. Considering that she is also active in CrossFit, one of Canada’s 1200 fittest women in 2016, she also led the off-ice training sessions for Eastman AAA, a fitting example of her exemplary leadership and dedication to her team.
Prior to the Under-20 Worlds, Larocque also captured a sixth city championship for co-ed ball hockey in Winnipeg. Adding to her growing legend as one of the province’s ball hockey luminaries, it also provided a tremendous momentum.
Taking this next empowering step in her coaching odyssey, the prestigious experience of playing at the ISBHF level prior, allowed her to identify with the emotions that this new crop of ball hockey talent was experiencing, understand the expectations for these prodigious talents. With tremendous empathy, it enabled Larocque to find common ground, simultaneously taking on the role of a big sister.
“Understanding the game of ball hockey as opposed to ice hockey is definitely something to get used to. I feel having (had) the privilege to play for my province and country with ball hockey, (it has) helped me greatly with passing on my knowledge to the group I recently coached.”
Considering that this event marked the international ball hockey debuts for members of Canada’s team, there was also a strong sense of provincial pride. Of the 22 players named to the roster, two were fellow Manitobans, including Winnipeg’s Olivia Daoust, and Robyn Matulla from Niverville, located 30 km south of Winnipeg in the Red River Valley.
Becoming both inspiration and a mentor for the collection of promising players experiencing the milestone of international play in their nascent careers, there was a reciprocal feeling, as the essence of teamwork and camaraderie that quickly developed at the event provided Larocque with an elated sense of achievement. As kindness and generosity represent the cornerstones of her career, coaching representing a cherished opportunity to relish in what she enjoys most about hockey,
“Giving back to the game, (in) both ice and ball hockey, I have been fortunate enough to do so for many years. I love the camaraderie (that) team sports bring forth and working with different personalities and work ethics that all have the same end goals.”
Opening the tournament with three straight shutouts, blanking Slovakia (3-0), United States (2-0) and the United Kingdom (6-0), a highly talented Canadian contingent qualified for the gold medal game. Facing off against host nation Czech Republic on Canada Day, a golden outcome was not meant to be, as Canada endured a visceral 4-1 loss.
Although the final result was not desired, there was a lot for Larocque and Team Canada to be proud of. Emma Wilson’s four goals in tournament play ranked among the top goal scorers, providing a positive glimpse of the future for Canada internationally. Along with Kennedy Whalen, Megan Hurrell and Jessica Davis, they would place among the top 20 in the tournament scoring race.
Reflecting with a sense of appreciation for the chance to be part of this historic event in Canadian female ball hockey, Larocque sees the silver as a very positive start in the beginning of this new era.
“It was a great learning experience winning silver at my first experience coaching ball hockey for Team Canada. I am very grateful for the opportunity and thankful for the memories with the team and coaching staff!”
Adding a sense of significance to this memorable moment for a jubilant Larocque’s career was the fact that it ran parallel to an achievement that her younger sister Jocelyne experienced. With Jocelyne skating for the Canadian national team in women’s ice hockey at the 2018 Winter Games, there was an incredibly strong sense of connection between these delighted sisters.
Both representing Canada internationally during the calendar year of 2018, each experience was enriched by the opportunity to obtain a podium finish. Having both played together at CBHA Nationals in years past, the remarkable feeling of achievement that defined their collective 2018 truly heralded their arrival as both influential and iconic competitors in the province’s sporting narrative.
“Being able to play for your country regardless (of) the sport is something to be proud of. My sister and I have a great love and passion for hockey and are both so fortunate to be able to play the sport we love.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Winnipeg Free Press photo by Trevor Hagan
Other images obtained from Facebook