Among the most skilled blueliners of the decade, Jocelyne Larocque continues to add a series of accolades and honors to her sensational body of work. A member of the Triple Gold Club for Women, a summit that she attained in March 2018 by leading the Markham Thunder to their first-ever Clarkson Cup, Larocque is also admired as a role model, a celebrated team captain and an entrepreneur.
Now, Larocque adds the prestigious honor of Tom Longboat Award recipient to her stature. Named in recognition of one of Canada’s most legendary athletes, Longboat, a member of the Onondaga Nation from Six Nations of the Grand River, gained fame as a long distance runner, crossing the finish line first in a captivating victory at the 1907 Boston Marathon, the first Canadian to do so.
Following this revered milestone, Longboat ran the Marathon at the 1908 Summer Games in London. As a side note, Larocque has represented Canada in women’s ice hockey at the 2014 and 2018 Winter Games. Not only is the accomplished athlete considered one of Canada’s greatest sports figures of the 20th Century, his cultural legacy also includes brave military service for Canada during World War I.
First introduced in 1951, the Tom Longboat Award recognizes Aboriginal athletes “for their outstanding contributions to sport in Canada”. Currently governed by the program of the Aboriginal Sport Circle, the annual honor includes a male and female recipient. This year, Saskatchewan’s Michael Linklater was named the Male recipient of the Award, linked with Larocque in Canadian sporting perpetuity, while their careers pay homage to an illustrious figure.
Discussing the reaction upon the discovery that the honor was bestowed upon her this year, one that entailed a combination of graciousness and humility, it is an honor befitting a player of Larocque’s leadership and perseverance. Simultaneously commemorating an incredible career, Larocque remains poised for even greater promise.
“I was surprised and extremely honoured. Tom Longboat is a legend and to be named a recipient of an award named after him is an absolute honour.”
Throughout the years, the lore of the Tom Longboat Award has included a number of distinguished women among its honorees. Including Phyllis Bombery, Beverly Stranger, Waneek Horn-Miller, who once landed on the cover of Time Magazine and participated in water polo at the 2000 Summer Games, plus Carole Polchies, who captured the honor in back to back years (1978 and 1979), there is also a proud hockey connection. Beverly Beaver, who captured the Award in 1980 was a multi-sport star who excelled in softball and also won the Ontario Ladies Hockey League Championship in 1990 with the Brantford Lady Blues. As a side note, several of her hockey artifacts were on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Diversity Exhibit earlier in 2018.
Carrying on their legacy, while adding to her own, Larocque joins this renowned group of inspiring figures in both Canadian sport and society. Of Métis heritage, whose flag is one of the oldest patriotic flags in Canada, there are over 580,000 individuals in Canada who identify themselves as Métis.
Just as integral to Larocque’s sporting narrative, she is also part of a great generation of accomplished women’s ice hockey players with proud Aboriginal roots. Among them are the likes of Christine Bestland, Megan Big Snake, Leah Sulyma, a veteran of three Arctic Winter Games competitions, who once recorded 104 saves in a contest at the 2007 Canada Winter Games, and Delaney Ross, a member of the Canoe Lake First Nation, who captained Saskatchewan to a National Aboriginal Hockey Championship in 2016, scoring the only goal of a thrilling Final.
Since Larocque has donned the Hockey Canada jersey, other players of Aboriginal heritage have enjoyed this milestone. Among them, two have called Larocque a teammate. Brigitte Lacquette, who has also experienced the jubilation of the Tom Longboat Award, earning the honor back in 2009, and Jamie Lee Rattray, a member of Canada’s first team that captured gold at the IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Championships, back in 2010, are adding to a proud heritage in the game.
Serendipitously, Larocque and Rattray were teammates on the Thunder’s victorious roster at the 2018 Clarkson Cup, while Lacquette, a Clarkson Cup winner in 2016 as a rookie with the Calgary Inferno, joined Larocque on Canada’s contingent at the 2018 Winter Games. In discussing the growing impact of other Aboriginal players making their mark in hockey, it is one that definitely represents a strong point of pride for Larocque, watching history unfold,
“Most definitely! They are both incredible hockey players and most importantly great people and big role models for all of Canada! I am proud of both of them.”
Worth noting, there is another notable player with Aboriginal roots that has proven to be an integral component of Larocque’s hockey narrative. Literally a teammate both on and off the ice, Larocque’s older sister, Chantal, made the journey from Winnipeg, proudly on-hand in Toronto for the Tom Longboat Award Ceremony, which also recognized the newest inductees into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, where the Award is housed.
Having both played for the Calgary Oval X-Treme during the halcyon days of the Western Women’s Hockey League (WWHL), these sensational sisters also enjoyed the opportunity to compete at the Esso Women’s Nationals for the Abby Hoffman Cup, a predecessor to the modern day Clarkson. Of note, Chantal would compete with a squad from the University of Manitoba at the 2003 edition of the event, while in 2007, Salmon Arm, British Columbia, served as the backdrop for Jocelyne to represent Alberta with other members of the X-Treme, claiming the gold, which also represented a second straight podium finish (Jocelyne would also capture a bronze in 2006).
The unbreakable bond of friendship and respect between both sisters has also extended to the slab. Wearing the Team Manitoba jersey at the Canadian Ball Hockey Association (CBHA) National Championships, it has cemented their standing as one of the most accomplished pair of sporting siblings in the province’s history. In addition, Chantal experienced her own international milestone in 2018. With the International Street and Ball Hockey Federation (ISBHF) introducing the Under-20 Women’s Ball Hockey World Championships, she was part of the coaching staff for the Canadian national team, enjoying a podium finish in the inaugural tournament.
“It was amazing having her there. She is someone I have always looked up to my entire life, so to have her there meant a lot to me.”
So far, Larocque’s Triple Crown status is complemented by significance with Manitoba’s Athlete of the Year Award, which she earned in 2014, along with a pair of NCAA Frozen Four titles from 2008 and 2010 with the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. Perhaps her greatest legacy is her efforts in helping to herald what may be the greatest generation of elite female hockey stars from the province of Manitoba, including Bailey and Shelby Bram, DeLayne Brian, Halli Krzyzaniak, and Lacquette, among others.
Undoubtedly, the tremendous triptych of achievements in 2018, starting with a podium finish at the PyeongChang Winter Games, which included Bailey Bram as a teammate, followed by a captivating overtime win against the Kunlun Red Star in the Clarkson Cup Finals, the first of her storied professional career, concluding with the Tom Longboat Award, represents a thrilling transition for Larocque. Evolving from star player to legend, the celebration of this defensive sentinel is certain to augment the latter half of her sterling career, one destined for further monumental moments.
“The 2017-2018 season was a great season. Being fortunate enough to represent Canada at the Olympics is a huge honour and to win the Clarkson Cup in the same year was amazing.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Images obtained from Facebook
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