With a Winter Games tournament that resulted in the first-ever shootout to decide the gold medal, while the host Koreans made their debut, complete with cheerleaders, the idea that Jocelyne Larocque’s removal of a silver medal emerged as THE story for some was truly short-sighted. Taking into account that Florence Schelling surpassed Kim St. Pierre as the winningest goaltender in the Games, while Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson scored the two fastest goals in tournament history (men’s or women’s), it would be understandable for many in the game, on and off the ice, to feel disillusioned over the unpleasant attacks on social media bestowed upon Larocque.
On the surface, the only element of consideration regarding a distraught Larocque removing her silver medal seconds after it was placed upon her neck was the fact that she was simply caught up in the emotion of the moment. While six other countries would have been ecstatic at the chance to play for the gold medal (Sweden is the only other nation that appeared in a gold medal match back in 2006), the reality of the eternal rivalry between Canada and the United States is that both nations play with a firm focus on the gold.
Sadly, Larocque’s removal became ammunition for a group of sporting cynics/critics to launch a character assassination, labelling her as “unsportsmanlike”. If the medal would have been thrown to the ground or tossed across the ice, that may have been a reasonable assessment. Considering that she still held the sullen silver, the defaming disapprovals that took place afterwards, becoming a subject of vicious vitriol, were certainly far from fair comment. Are these same individuals aware that women’s ice hockey exists in between the quadrennial schedule of the Winter Games?
Compared to instances in the late 1990s where a baseball player once spat on an umpire and a basketball player choked his coach, while recent years had one hockey player attempting to sell a silver medal from Sochi online, while a junior player launched his medal into the stands, Larocque’s actions were far from unsportsmanlike. In removing the silver medal during such an emotionally charged instance, Larocque not only proved she was human, she displayed an amazing element of authenticity.
Considering that a quarterback in professional football refused to stand up for the national anthem during the 2016 season, the impact of that polarizing event was one in which he was celebrated by so many for his actions. Gracing magazine covers such as Time and GQ, he became more famous for his stance on the anthem compared to any achievement on the gridiron (which also included an appearance in the Super Bowl).
In baseball, when a manager gets angry at an umpire’s call, the reactions become fodder for blooper reels or sports highlights shows. Whether it be kicking dirt on the umpire, or grabbing a base from the infield and tossing it towards the outfield grass, such instances may result in the manager being ejected from the game but they are viewed with a tinge of hilarity.
To take a deeper dive, one would see that Larocque has assembled an exemplary career, providing a jolt of inspiring leadership for every team that she has played with. Would these same individuals that had the audacity to proclaim her as unsportsmanlike be so bold if they knew that she was a multiple Frozen Four champion, an All-America blueliner, the last captain in the fabled history of the Brampton Thunder, one of Canada’s longest running teams, and one Clarkson Cup away from membership in the Triple Gold Club?
Along with her sister Chantal Marie, who has played for Canada at the ISBHF Women’s Worlds, the two have also played together at numerous CBHA national championships as members of Team Manitoba. Having also given her time to numerous charitable causes, while also taking on the role of entrepreneur, Larocque is truly a cut above. The impact of her career was not lost on one of the luminaries of the female game, as Hayley Wickenheiser came to her defense with an admirable statement on social media that is the embodiment of what a player should be,
“Jocelyn Larocque is one fine person, teammate and as competitive as anyone I’ve ever played with. We need more like her. It was gold or bust and a heated emotional moment. Cut her some slack people, she’d go through a brick wall for you if she was on your team! #character”
Perhaps the only element even more upsetting than such sad criticisms was the fact that a broadcaster for a national news network in Canada did not even know Larocque’s name when discussing the story. The morning after the gold medal outcome, video footage was shown of Larocque, surrounded by tearful teammates, removing the medal, with said broadcaster simply mentioning her as a “player”. Even when a maligned Larocque issued an apology, the news feed at the bottom of the screen for the same national news network mentioned the apology by once again labelling her as just a player.
One former player who has become a respected broadcaster, Cassie Campbell-Pascall, showed what made her such a phenomenal leader in her superlative career. The only player to capture back-to-back Winter Games gold medals as captain of her national team, her leadership proficiencies remain strongly evident, as more than 1500 hockey fans liked her social media statement,
“I just landed home and would like to vouch for the terrific character of Jocelyne Larocque. She will rethink her actions in the future, but she is someone I consider to be an excellent role model for my daughter. She was a terrific teammate and she is a remarkable young woman…”
The most important element for Larocque to remember is that people forgive. By the time that the summer solstice arrives, this shall be nothing more than a distant memory. Once summer transitions into autumn, and Larocque takes her rightful place as the captain of the Markham Thunder, the focus shall become keeping the proud club in the Clarkson Cup conversation.
Taking into account the strong showing of support shown by the teammates and management of the Thunder in defense of their maligned captain, it is testament to her positive impact. Among such examples, Fielding Montgomery’s assessment of Larocque may have been the most heartfelt, embodying the essence of good sportsmanship that is truly the backbone of such an exemplary career,
“At the start of our season on media day we were asked a series of questions, one being ‘who is your role model?’ I answered Jocelyn Laroque and never has that been more true. She has every quality you would ever want in a teammate, captain, and friend and I am lucky to know that.”
Photo credits: Bruce Bennett and Ronald Martinez, Getty Images