For most athletes, winning an Olympic silver medal would be a reason for celebration. But one particular Canadian ice hockey player recently treated hers as though it was the wooden spoon. Here’s a look at the story behind Jocelyne Larocque’s surprising podium antics.
Born in Manitoba, Canada, in 1988, Jocelyne Larocque began her hockey career playing for the College Lorette Collegiate. There she made history by becoming the first female athlete to compete in the Winnipeg High School Boys League. She was later selected to represent her home state at the National Women’s Under-18 Championship and in 2005 was part of the WWHL-winning Calgary Oval X-Treme.
In 2008 she helped the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs pick up their fourth NCAA national championship. A year later she became the Bulldogs’ first defenseman to be selected for the All-American first team. By the end of her college career, Larocque had lifted a second NCAA title and been crowned UMD’s all-time greatest-scoring defenseman with 105 points.
Larocque later enjoyed spells at Manitoba Maple Leafs and Calgary Inferno. In 2013 she was traded from the latter to the Brampton Thunder for forward Bailey Bram. Just a year later she took over from Tara Gray as the team’s official captain.
In a 2017 interview with CBC, Larocque claimed that she possessed a temperament suited to guiding others. “I have always been very calm and composed on the ice. That way I think I can help others when they are feeling a little flustered. Perhaps I can calm them down a bit.”
Although Larocque missed out on selection for the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010, she did compete for Canada in the MLP and Four Nations Cups that same year. She finally did make it to the Games in 2014 when she was chosen to represent her country at Sochi. There she picked up a gold medal after Team Canada’s 3-2 win over the United States.
Larocque has also won six world championship medals as a member of Team Canada. She picked up the first of five career silvers at the 2011 event in Switzerland. She then went one better a year later when Canada defeated host nation the United States in overtime 5-4.
And Larocque was expected to add to her gold medal haul at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Indeed, Canada had come out on top at the four previous Games. So it was little surprise when it sailed through its group round with three wins out of three.
After receiving a bye to the semi-finals, Canada then made easy work of OAR (Olympic Athletes from Russia), comfortably winning 5-0. Having already beaten the United States in the group stages, Canada was widely expected to repeat the feat in the final. But things didn’t exactly go according to the form book.
Indeed, with the game finishing at 2-2, the two sides faced a sudden-death shootout. And it was the United States that held its nerve, winning 3-2 with Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson netting the decisive shot. It was the States’ first gold medal in the event since Nagano, Japan, in 1998, when coincidentally it also beat Canada.
And one particular member of Team Canada wasn’t exactly gracious about the result. Indeed, Larocque let the entire world know how unhappy she was when she stepped onto the podium to receive her silver medal. For when an official put it around her neck, she quickly snatched it off.
Larocque simply held onto the silver for the rest of the ceremony, prompting the joyous American fans to chant, “Put your medal on.” When asked why she chose such a stance, the defenseman replied, “Just hard. We were going for gold.” Larocque acknowledged that a silver would eventually be a consolation, “But … not at the moment.”
After struggling to respond to reporters’ questions, Larocque headed for the dressing room. But before she could make it, she was pulled over by an IIHF official, who informed her that her medal behavior was against governing body rules. Larocque compliantly nodded during the talk, but it’s not known whether she ever did put her silver back on.
Larocque faced a backlash from some Twitter users who felt her conduct had lacked class. One viewer said, “Very disappointed in Jocelyne Larocque’s display of incredibly un-Canadian sportsmanship and being a poor loser.” Another commented, “As a Canadian I am embarrassed. Grow up! You are playing with adults now. Shame!”
But not everyone on Twitter felt the same way. “If you’re out here bitching about Jocelyne Larocque taking off her silver medal you’ve probably never played a sport past middle school,” commented one supporter. And referring to Olympic events with finals and third-place play-offs, another user said, “you win a gold or a bronze medal, but you do not win a silver. You get it.”
And Larocque’s actions were also defended by an unlikely ally – the United States coach who had just guided his team to victory. Robb Stauber told the Globe and Mail, “I definitely understand it. It’s a very heated rivalry.” When asked whether she empathized with Larocque’s high emotions, Canada coach Laura Schuler replied, “For sure. You feel like you’ve let your country down.”
Larocque also received support from fellow Team Canada player Meghan Agosta. “The decision that she made, it wasn’t any ill will. She didn’t mean to disrespect anybody. We train so hard and we went there for gold. It was unfortunate that we ended up losing, but Jocelyne Larocque, she’s an amazing leader, an amazing person, a great teammate.”
However, Larocque did later apologize for her conduct in an official statement. “In the moment, I was disappointed with the outcome of the game, and my emotions got the better of me. I meant no disrespect – it has been an honor to represent my country and win a medal for Canada. Please understand this was a moment in time that I truly wish I could take back.”
Larocque also acknowledged that she’d let down those who look up to her. “I take seriously being a role model to young girls and representing our country. My actions did not demonstrate the values our team, myself and my family live, and for that I am truly sorry.”
And Larocque seemed keen to put the whole incident behind her as quickly as possible. Shortly after her return from Korea, Markham Thunder announced that its captain would be taking to the ice for the Rogers Hometown Hockey Weekend. This made Larocque the first hockey player who had competed in the 2018 Winter Olympics to return to a North American professional team.