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Jocelyne Larocque lands deserved spot on TSN’s All-Time Team Canada

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In response to the absence of sports, an entire slate of events, including the 2020 IIHF Women’s (and Men’s) World Championships, wiped out due to concerns over a pandemic, The Sports Network (TSN) managed to engage hockey fans with a unique series of lists celebrating Canada’s hockey heroes. Captivating the imagination of fans and players alike, TSN’s publication of All-Time Teams included Team Canada Women’s and Men’s finest, along with the seven NHL teams based north of the border.

Among the veteran leaders named to Canada’s entry for the 2020 IIHF Women’s Worlds, scheduled in Halifax, Nova Scotia, blueliner Jocelyne Larocque, from Ste. Anne, Manitoba, gained a well-deserved place among the celebrated players. Landing on TSN’s All-Time Team Canada Women’s, consisting of 23 highly accomplished pioneers that have burnished one of the nation’s finest athletic legacies.

With the other blueliners including Hockey Hall of Famer Therese Brisson, Geraldine Heaney, Becky Kellar, Cheryl Pounder, Colleen Sostorics and former teammate Catherine Ward, there was no shortage of influence for Larocque. As the announced forwards were all placed on lines, while the blueliners were paired, Larocque found herself paired with the iconic Brisson. Having first debuted at the 1994 IIHF Women’s World Championships, which saw Canada obtain its third straight gold medal, Brisson would also skate on the historic squad that participated at Nagano 1998, a landmark event in the game’s resurgence.

Belonging to a remarkable group that earned such standing, the fact that Larocque is still an active player is truly testament to a brilliant career, representing the potential for further greatness. Equally compelling is the fact that the announcement actually took place on Larocque’s birthday, resulting in a unique outpouring of support from friends and fans alike on social media, “It was a special birthday present that’s for sure!”

PLAYING CAREER

With a seemingly endless list of tremendous highlights, a hockey journey that began with three consecutive Western Women’s Hockey League (WWHL) championships (2005-07) with the Calgary Oval X-Treme, along with the prestige of winning the Abby Hoffman Cup at the 2007 Esso Women’s Nationals, Larocque also excelled at the NCAA level. Playing for Shannon Miller, who was also Canada’s head coach at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games, Larocque would capture a pair of Frozen Four titles (2008, 2010), with the dynastic University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs.

Running parallel to Larocque’s time with the Bulldogs was the germination of her Team Canada career. Skating for the Under-22 Developmental Program, 2006 would see her capture a gold medal at the Air Canada Cup in Ravensburg, Germany, the first of three straight. Adding luster to the milestone of her first international gold was scoring her first-ever goal in a Canadian jersey, the first of the game in a 10-1 rout versus an overmatched roster from Swtizerland.

With the assists credited to Sabrina Harbec and Kerri Wallace, there was also a captivating glimpse into the future, as the roster also featured future Winter Games teammates Meghan Mikkelson and Shannon Szabados. Additionally, Bobbi-Jo Slusar, a future teammate of Larocque in CWHL play, plus Noemie Marin, a future Hockey Canada coach, were also part of the golden roster.

Becoming a fixture on the Under-22 team for the remainder of her Bulldogs career, enjoying a total of 35 appearances, it was only fitting that Larocque’s final appearance with said team ended in golden glory. Once again, in Germany, the Under-22s emerged as the top team of the 2010 MLP Cup, a roster which featured fellow Manitoban Bailey Bram, plus future CWHL rivals Ann-Sophie Bettez, Emmanuelle Blais, also a Bulldogs teammate, and Jesse Scanzano, who played with Bram at Mercyhurst College.

It was also with the Under-22 Team that dynasty and destiny collided for Larocque. During the month of August 2005, Hockey Canada held its own version of Summer Camp, as Father David Bauer Arena in Calgary served as the backdrop for an Evaluation Camp featuring Under-22 hopefuls, of which one was future Women’s Hockey Life founder Jaclyn Hawkins. Understandably, a 17 year-old Larocque’s first appearance conveyed elements of nervous energy and anticipation, as she would take to the ice in an exhibition series against the National Senior Team.

Although Larocque did not gain any points in said series, she definitely made an impression. In a 2-1 loss on August 25, which saw Shannon Szabados valiantly face 43 shots for the Under-22s, Larocque displayed a combination of heart and grit. Called for a roughing penalty with eight seconds remaining in the first, tangling with Vicky Sunohara, a member of the Canadian contingent that competed at the 1998 and 2002 Winter Games, Larocque survived a baptism of fire, worthy of sharing the ice against players that inspired her to pursue her own hockey dream.

“I remember being SO nervous! My first time playing for Team Canada was with the Under 22 Team and we played against the Senior Team in 2005. Playing with some amazing players and against my idols was terrifying but also so much fun!”

Just as prevalent during this comparable time of the late 2000s was the fact that Larocque reached another exhilarating summit. Enjoying the honour of debuting for the Canadian national senior team, capturing a silver medal at the 2008 4 Nations Cup, the event was one of good omens. Not only did Larocque score her first goal in her inaugural appearance with the senior team, scoring Canada’s final goal of the game in a 6-0 blanking of Finland, she would return to the 4 Nations Cup in 2009 and 2010, winning gold medals.

The combination of the Frozen Four titles, WWHL championships and the golds from the 4 Nations Cup set the stage for a brilliant career, which resulted in Larocque, gaining a treasured place in the Triple Gold Club for Women. Recognizing players whose careers have included a gold medal in the Winter Games, an IIHF World Championship, plus a Clarkson Cup title, Larocque was only 30 years young when all three were realized.

Earning a revered place with the achievement of Triple Gold saw Larocque reach this summit within a six-year span. Enjoying a gold medal at the 2012 IIHF Women’s Worlds in Burlington, Vermont, she would follow it up with golden glory in Sochi, Russia, site of the 2014 Winter Games. With the gold medal game representing Canada’s Miracle on Ice, an overtime victory in which Marie-Philip Poulin, the only other active player named to TSN’s All-Time Team Canada Women’s, found the back of the net, the entire team becoming part of sporting Canadiana.

MANITOBA ROOTS

The triptych of hockey brilliance would include the glory of an historic Clarkson Cup win in 2018. Wearing the green of the Markham Thunder, a club that had never won before, Larocque also had the privilege of the captain’s C adorned on her jersey. Enhancing this glorious feat was the fact that Larocque became the first captain from Manitoba to lead her team to a Cup triumph.

Undeniably, the Manitoba influence has been most prevalent for Larocque. From the outset, fellow Manitoban Jennifer Botterill was also named to the All-Time Team Canada. Serendipitously, it was Botterill, along with Sarah Vaillancourt, who assisted on Larocque’s first goal with the senior team, part of the 6-0 win against Finland in 4 Nations Cup play.

 

As the province has produced a remarkable group of women that have worn the Maple Leaf, from celebrated sisters Bailey and Shelby Bram, to Brigitte Lacquette and Halli Krzyzaniak, the feeling of legacy holds another cherished facet for Larocque. Having called each other teammates with the WWHL’s Manitoba Maple Leafs, and on the provincial ball hockey team, older sister, Chantal, won a pair of gold medals with Canada at the ISBHF World Championships in 2013 and 2015.

Considering that Botterill and goaltender Sami Jo Small were the first Manitobans to appear with Canada in women’s ice hockey at the Winter Games, their presence was impactful for an entire generation, including Larocque, who was still in her teens when the Canadian contingent captured their first-ever gold medal in women’s ice hockey at the 2002 Winter Games. As a side note, Larocque would also enjoy the opportunity to call the iconic Small as a teammate, both wearing the jersey of Team White at the inaugural CWHL All-Star Game. With Botterill, currently a broadcaster with the NHL’s New York Islanders, the only other Manitoban named to TSN’s All-Time Team Canada Women’s, the chance for Larocque to be intertwined in such a group of honoured players, is one that holds proud connotations,

“Most definitely, Botts is someone I have always looked up to! I remember watching her play and being so proud she was from Manitoba. I went to her Hockey School when I was 13, which was a huge highlight of mine growing up. In 2009 I was fortunate enough to become her teammate and not only was she a phenomenal player, she was an amazing teammate.”

With 112 appearances on the Senior Team, her cumulative totals, including a glorious era as one of the first superstars during the nascent years of the Under-22/Developmental Team, includes 147 total games over 15 fantastic years, 38 points, on the strength of 31 assists, and 150 penalty minutes. More impressive is a superlative medal haul, including four gold medals and a silver medal from the Air Canada/MLP Nations Cup with the Under-22s. On the Senior Team, Larocque has amassed 18 medals, the most notable being the gold from Sochi 2014.

Having achieved so many great things, whether it be in the Canadian jersey or in the professional ranks, Larocque has also followed in the footsteps of Botterill and Small as a revered role model for a new generation of young Manitobans, and Canadians. Through it all, Larocque shall always remain dedicated to the growth of the game. Ecstatic at the prospect that TSN’s list may re-introduce the heroic women that paved the way, there is a strong feeling of pride being part of a group that has transcended generations, an exalted honour that holds great meaning for a beacon of brilliance on the blueline.

“It ranks very high! It was very unexpected and I am so honoured to be on such a prestigious roster. Being on a roster filled with players I watched growing up is surreal!”

”All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

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