Hockey hero Jocelyne Larocque adds entrepreneur to growing list of accomplishments

Part of a new generation of women’s hockey stars to come from Manitoba, Jocelyne Larocque is laying down roots in the Greater Toronto Area. Having competed in years past for the WWHL’s Manitoba Maple Leafs and the CWHL’s Team Alberta franchise (later rechristened as the Calgary Inferno), the 2014-15 season saw Jocelyne Larocque head east, acquired by the Brampton Thunder for childhood friend (and teammate on the Canadian National Team) Bailey Bram.

Bestowed the honor of Brampton’s captaincy, an honor shared by the likes of Jayna Hefford, Vicky Sunohara and Tara Gray (who played with Larocque for the 2010 NCAA Frozen Four championship team), Larocque has emerged as a fan favorite. With Brampton in rebuilding mode, her experience and leadership makes her an invaluable member of the roster hoping for championship days to come.

A key sign of Larocque’s commitment to the franchise is the establishment of a new business venture. Adding the title of entrepreneur to a list of accomplishments that includes hockey hero and Winter Games gold medalist, an exciting new venture established in Hamilton, Ontario is defined by her enthusiasm.

Having opened a hockey training facility titled STOKE Strength and Conditioning, Larocque’s entrepreneurial spirit is encouraging, as it proves that women in hockey can engage in rewarding careers off the ice. Taking into account that all women that participate in hockey at the CWHL level have an academic background, they hold the potential to become key leaders in the business world.


Part of Larocque’s focus at STOKE is the objective to build strong, agile and well-conditioned athletes. Designing programs around the team’s goals and abilities, values such as teamwork and communication are cornerstones in helping to develop effective group workouts as well.

Employing the innovative concept of a movement assessment, Larocque and staff begin with providing each athlete from the team with an individual assessment which shall aim to discover the strengths and weaknesses concerning a player’s mobility. This commitment to not fit players into a type of cookie-cutter mold adds value as the key goal is safety and relevance, what Larocque identifies as “a destination of your fitness journey.”

With 65 hours of gym time, STOKE tries to work around the client’s requirements, rather than the reverse. An added bonus is that clients in the Brantford, Cambridge and Hamilton areas can benefit from mobile training, where the gym comes to them.

Taking into account that Larocque has been surrounded by the likes of world-class coaches such as Shannon Miller and Melody Davidson provides her with the fundamentals required to train effectively. As the coordinator for hockey programming, she is dedicated to helping all players and teams elevate their games to even higher levels.

Such aspects that will define one of her team workouts at STOKE includes a group warmup, small group training (based on results identified in the tests), a team workout where speed, strength, agility and other aspects of training shall remain a key focus. This is concluded by emphasizing proper cool down techniques.

Of all the programs offered, one that may develop into their most popular could very well be the College Prep program. A development program open to female players aged 15-18+ that takes place during spring and summer months, there are 51 off-ice strength and conditioning sessions, as well as 24 on-ice sessions.

Beginning with a 15-20 minute meeting with a coach in which goals aimed towards a successful future are discussed, there is also a monthly check-in to monitor progress. Working in two phases, Phase 1 focuses on improving the athlete. Building strength, establishing an aerobic base and anaerobic training are among the building blocks.

Phase 2 is defined by a combination of both on-ice and off-ice sessions. Larocque herself leads the on-ice sessions, with a wealth of skill development on the agenda. Components such as speed, power skating, edge work, agility, puck control, shooting, passing, shot blocking and angling look to create a better, more balanced player, able to adapt at various game situations.

Joined by a group of coaches whose experiences include CIS, NCAA and/or IIHF level hockey, the level of expertise provides the perfect level of understanding of what it means to elevate one’s game. That personal touch is one of the values that Larocque has built her enterprise on, indeed a labor of love. Getting to know what the client needs, while doing so in a safe environment are ingredients that Larocque hopes shall lead to happier and healthier lives.

Off-season CWHL trade a win-win for Brampton and Calgary

As the Brampton Thunder and Calgary Inferno look to brighter futures ahead, a significant trade defined their mutual ambitions. In need of scoring help, the Inferno acquired Bailey Bram (one of the final players released from Canada’s Centralization Camp for Sochi) from the Thunder. Coming the other way is blueliner Jocelyn Larocque. Ironically, Bram and Larocque both grew up in the community of Ste. Anne, Manitoba.

Taking into account that Calgary features a solid defensive unit featuring Meaghan Mikkelson, Tara Watchorn and Kelsey Webster, Larocque was sent eastbound. There is further irony in the fact that Watchorn grew up in Newcastle, Ontario, east of Toronto. Therefore, Watchorn would have seemed as the most logical choice to be traded as Larocque is of Western Canadian heritage.

For both clubs, the trade is a win-win situation as it addresses key needs, while possibly bringing more parity to CWHL play. Defensively, Brampton has endured its struggles since the departures of Allyson Fox (CWHL co-founder) and Molly Engstrom (a two-time Winter Games participant). While Courtney Birchard and Tara French have supplied great leadership on the blueline, Larocque’s presence burdens their load.

Complemented by Brampton selecting Laura Fortino with the first pick overall in the 2014 CWHL Draft, the blueline situation has emerged as one of significant improvement. Of note, Fortino and Larocque played together for Canada’s gold medal winning squad at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. The two should be able to establish some strong chemistry on defense.

Strong defense will certainly be important for Brampton. In the autumn of 2013, the club lost goaltenders Liz Knox and Florence Schelling. While the club has selected backstop Erica Howe in the 2014 CWHL Draft, there will definitely be a rookie adjustment.

Larocque will be counted upon to improve a Brampton club that missed its first CWHL playoffs in franchise history in March 2014. For the last two seasons, Brampton’s goals against and their penalty minutes have increased. During the 2012-13 campaign, the club allowed 83 goals while compiling a league-worst 352 penalty minutes. In the aftermath of 2013-14, those numbers inflated to a dismal 99 goals allowed and 368 penalty minutes, both worst in the league. Disciplined play shall be the only way Brampton can expect a return to the postseason next spring.

After a 2013-14 season that saw the new-look Calgary Inferno experience several franchise firsts (first winning season, first third-place finish, first postseason berth, first award winner), the rapidly improving franchise is hoping for its first Clarkson Cup in 2015. Of all the significant accomplishments over the previous season, the strengthening of its offensive game may have been the greatest.

Rookie sensations Danielle (Danny) Stone and Julie Paetsch registered seasons of 25 and 22 points, ranking sixth and ninth in the CWHL scoring race, respectively. The result was a club that scored 62 goals, a 32-goal improvement on the 2012-13 campaign. In addition, Stone rewrote the club’s scoring records, establishing herself as a franchise player. Despite such a solid performance, Calgary did not have much depth past their first line and it showed in the Clarkson Cup playoffs.

With only one solid scoring line, the acquisition of Bailey Bram adds the potential to provide much needed scoring depth. Reputed as a loyal teammate and friendly with fans, Bram is a proven scorer that earned a gold medal at the 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds. In her rookie campaign with the Brampton Thunder (2012-13), she registered 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) to finish among the league’s Top 20 scorers, while finishing fourth in scoring for Brampton.

Accompanied by the selection of Boston University scoring star Louise Warren (who was recently invited to Canada’s Under-22 talent evaluation camp), Brittany Esposito and Frozen Four champion Sarah Davis in this year’s draft, all three may also pay positive dividends for the Inferno offense. The concept of Bram anchoring a line with a combination of the aforementioned players is possible. As the club looks to reach the 70-goal plateau as a team for the first time, Bram has the potential to provide that extra element to the club’s offensive attack.

Milestone game for CWHL co-founder Liz Breton as she earns 100th point of her storied Stars career

Having logged career point 99 before the holiday break, Montreal Stars fans eagerly awaited with anticipation as to when Lisa-Marie Breton-Lebreux would hit the magical century mark. The historic moment would come on January 11 at Arena St. Louis as the Stars continued to extend their stranglehold on first place in the CWHL standings.

With the remarkable rookie crop this season, the opportunities for history during this season seem limitless. For one magical moment in time, a remarkable veteran left her mark on January 11. Fans at Arena St. Louis were treated to a historic game as Breton-Lebreux contributed a goal in a 4-1 victory.

In action against the Brampton Thunder (Photo credit: Marc St. Pierre)

In action against the Brampton Thunder (Photo credit: Marc St. Pierre)

Emmanuelle Blais would open the scoring in the first period as she slipped the puck past Brampton backstop Sonja van der Bliek. Although it would be the only goal of the period, van der Bliek was tested often as she faced 14 shots and four Montreal power plays.

Simply 56 seconds into the second stanza, Ann-Sophie Bettez would add to the Stars lead. Of note, she has scored in every Stars contest since the season began. Blais and Vanessa (Vinny Davidson) would earn the helpers. Although Brampton would be on the penalty kill three times in the stanza, the red and black had managed to keep Breton-Lebreux off the scoreboard.

As the third period opened with Lindsay Vine serving a holding penalty, the Stars would capitalize through one of the most exciting goals of the season. Scoring at the 39 second mark, Breton-Lebreux logged the goal that would see her reach the magical century mark in her storied career. Earning the assists on the historic marker were Sara Dagenais and Carly Hill. To a roar of approval from the fans in attendance, it was a moment of validation, proving that Breton’s efforts in helping to launch the franchise and the league had yielded ground breaking results.

Despite the fact that Brampton would spoil the moment ten seconds later as Sarah Moe snapped Catherine Herron’s bid for a shutout, Montreal was not going to relinquish their lead. Before the period would expire, Blais would contribute her second goal and third point of the game.

With one of the assists credited to Cathy Chartrand, it symbolized a true passing of the torch. As Breton-Lebreux was the first captain in Stars history, and the longest serving in CWHL history, she had selected Chartrand to succeed her as captain prior to the beginning of this season.

For fans of the Montreal Stars, making history has been a predominant theme in Breton-Lebreux’s Hall of Fame worthy career. As the CWHL co-founder and first captain to claim the Clarkson Cup, she has proven to be a remarkable modern day builder for the sport in Montreal.

Along with the remarkable contributions of former coach Patrick Rankine, Breton-Lebreux has transformed the Montreal Stars into the world’s greatest women’s hockey team. With a renaissance of women’s hockey at the university level in Montreal, it has marked a golden era in the game for the hockey mad city and a legacy complemented by Breton’s tireless efforts.

Danielle Boudreau’s first career CWHL goal holds even greater meaning

With Brampton visiting Boston for the first game of the 2013-14 CWHL season, it brought with it a sense of renewed optimism. As both teams have rebuilt through the draft after having lost several superstar members of their rosters for the golden dream of the Sochi Winter Games, fans at ISCC Simsbury Olympic rink were treated to a new generation of stars.

As the frozen perimeter brought with it fresh faces and established snipers at the NCAA level such as Brampton’s first-round pick Jess Jones and Boston’s Casey Pickett, who once played in an outdoor game at Fenway Park, fans were anticipating which player would log the first goal of the season.

Ironically, it would be a stay-at-home defender with great humility and a team-first approach that would log the magical first goal of the season. Danielle Boudreau, selected in the third round, 13th overall by Brampton would bury the puck past Alissa Fromkin. Ironically, the first goal scored in the 2012-13 season was also scored by a rookie, Sara Dagenais of the Montreal Stars.

One of the biggest goals of her life would be scored at the 9:28 mark of the first with assists going to long-time CWHL vet Jennifer Kirk and Kelly Hart. With experience as an alternate captain (with Clarkson), Boudreau has the potential to provide solid leadership for the rebuilding Brampton club. Complemented by shot blocking as the favorite aspect of her game, it may not be the last time this season fans hear her name.

Having carved a solid career at the NCAA level with the Clarkson Golden Knights, the Whitby native won Clarkson’s Ron Frazer Award (presented to a player who has elevated her game in key situations). Having logged 32 points in 150 career games, her last NCAA goal would come on December 3, 2011 versus Union, while her final points were a pair of assists on February 3, 2012 against Brown.

While Jill Cardella and Casey Pickett (also logging her first career CWHL goal in her debut) would score in the second stanza as Boston eventually prevailed, Boudreau’s goal was part of a valiant effort in which Brampton is ready to recapture the glory days of old. With parity being the theme of this new season, every team has an opportunity to surprise and compete for the most coveted prize in women’s hockey. Just like the first goal of the season, the last goal to win the Clarkson may be from the unlikeliest of stars.

Brittany Ott shines in CWHL debut for Boston Blades

After a stellar four-year career with the University of Maine Black Bears, Brittany Ott is graduating to women’s pro hockey. Having rewritten many Black Bears goaltending records, Ott will be essential for the Boston Blades ambitions of repeating as Clarkson Cup champions.

With the absence of backstops Genevieve Lacasse and Molly Schaus to their respective national centralization camps (in preparation for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games), the Blades were faced with a significant gap between the pipes. The selection of Ott in the 2013 CWHL Draft may prove to be just the remedy they require.

Ott had her opportunity to start for the Blades in the second game of the 2013-14 Canadian Women’s Hockey League season. A Sunday afternoon tilt on November 3 would signify the first game of her Blades career. Competing against opposing goalie Jamie Miller of the Brampton Thunder at Boss Ice Arena, it would not take long for the Blades to provide Ott with a lead.

At the 2:48 mark of the first frame, Jill Cardella scored to give the black and gold an early lead. Only 13 seconds later, Brampton’s first round pick Jess Jones would become the answer to a trivia question as she scored the first goal on Ott in CWHL play.

After close to 11 minutes of scoreless play, Jessica Koizumi would regain the lead for Boston. With 20 seconds left, rookie Rachel Llanes would score with assists going to Blake Bolden and Ashley Cottrell. Going into intermission, the Blades enjoyed a 3-1 lead as Ott only faced six shots.

The second stanza would find Ott tested for the first time in her CWHL career. With penalties to Koizumi and Maggie Taverna within 31 seconds of each other, Brampton enjoyed a 5-on-3 power play opportunity. Showing great poise in the crease, Ott nullified the advantage as Brampton went scoreless.

While Brampton outshot Boston by a 9-8 count in the second, it was Boston that would continue to place the biscuit in the basket. Goals by rookie Casey Pickett and first round pick Jillian Dempsey showed that a bright future is ahead for these two promising stars.

Although Lindsay Vine would manage to score on Ott in the final frame, the Blades cruised to a 7-2 victory. With Boston having peppered Miller with 43 shots, Ott only had to face 21 shots from the beleaguered Brampton squad. Despite the Blades having lost over a dozen players due to centralization or retirement, Ott and fellow rookie Alissa Fromkin have the goaltending situation in good hands.

Jody Katz brings a well-rounded background to new position with CWHL

In spring 2013, Jody Katz was named as the new Hockey Operations Leader for the CWHL. Heading into the 2013-14 campaign, she will lend her expertise to the budding league. With a well-rounded background in playing, coaching and administration, Katz has paid her dues in a career that spanned close to fifteen years.

Serving as head coach of the Brampton Thunder (Photo credit: Brandon Taylor)

Serving as head coach of the Brampton Thunder (Photo credit: Brandon Taylor)

As a player, Katz played at both the Canadian Interuniversity Sport and the NCAA level. She won the 1997 CIAU National Championship with the Concordia Stingers of Montreal. Her head coach at Concordia was the legendary Les Lawton (the first women’s hockey coach to win 500 games). Of note, one of her teammates was future CWHL competitor Delaney Collins.

At the NCAA level, she was part of the inaugural season of the Niagara Purple Eagles in 1999-2000. She would help lead the program to its first (and only) appearance in the NCAA Frozen Four. “I played collegiate hockey at Niagara University for head coach Margot Page (former member of the Canadian National Women’s Team).

Ironically, Katz would cross paths with a future colleague at the 2001 Frozen Four. “Digit Murphy (the Boston Blades coach and GM for 2012-13) was the head coach for the Brown Bears, who also qualified.”

Lindsay Vine, who would play for Brampton in 2012-13, was a teammate of Katz at Niagara. “Vine and I were teammates for three seasons. As part of the senior class, we were ranked Number 2 in the country.”

After her playing career had reached its twilight, Katz would contribute to Niagara add to her educational repertoire. She would graduate from Canisius College in Buffalo, earning a Masters of Sports Administration.

In the inaugural NCAA Division I season for the Robert Morris Colonials (2005-06), Katz served as an interim head coach. Of note, Katz has a Level 4 Coaching Certification with USA Hockey also.

“Coaching was amazing. It is almost better than playing. I consider myself to be technically sound. It was very stimulating, and challenging to make in-game adjustments. I bring a teaching system to playing the game, and I challenged my players to be their best every day.”

Among the players she coached at RMU, her best may have been goaltender Brianne McLaughlin. She was named to the United States Winter Games squad that competed at Vancouver 2010 and was claimed by Brampton in the 2012 CWHL Dispersal Draft.

“She is one of the best goalies in the world. Truly, one of the best character people you will meet in hockey.”

In 2010, Katz would join the CWHL sorority. For the next three seasons, Katz was the architect behind a squad that qualified for three consecutive Clarkson Cup tournaments, including an appearance in the 2012 finals versus the Montreal Stars, respectively. “I felt it was an amazing opportunity, and it was a chance to be closer to home.”

Katz wore many hats with the Brampton Thunder, including general manager, and a stint as coach for part of the 2011-12 campaign. She had replaced head coach Angela James (whom the CWHL scoring title is named after), who departed for personal reasons.

Of note, James was the first Canadian woman (and female visible minority) in the Hockey Hall of Fame. While James did not finish the season with Brampton, Katz admired her presence with the franchise. “Her competitive nature really showed people on the team what it takes to win at the highest level of the game.”

In addition to her role with the CWHL, Katz is the Director of Recruiting along with assistant coach duties for the Brock Badgers in the Ontario University Athletics conference. To show how small the world of women’s hockey can be, the coaching staff of Brock features a familiar face from her Niagara days. “The head coach at Brock was an assistant coach when I was a player at Niagara.”

When news came in the spring of 2012 that Niagara University had folded its women’s hockey program, it was one that brought with it melancholy for Katz. “I think it was disappointing. They had the tools to be a top-ranked program year in and year out. I disagree with the analysis done as to what sports would succeed there in the long term.”

“I cherished the memories and my time playing there. Their presence helped to grow other hockey programs and helped build hockey in nearby regions.”

While Katz moves on to a new (and well-deserved) role as Hockey Operations Leader, she reflects on her role in Brampton with pride. “The biggest thing I wanted to do as a General Manager was for other people in women’s hockey to say that they wanted to emulate what I was doing.”

One of Katz’s greatest accomplishments as a General Manager was her track record of drafting solid players in the CWHL Draft. Although Brampton featured living legends like Lori Dupuis, Jayna Hefford and Cherie Piper, her work evaluating talent paid remarkable dividends.

Superstars she drafted like Vicki Bendus and Bailey Bram represent the future of the Brampton franchise. In addition, she drafted several diamonds in the rough with great character. These include: Dania Simmonds (who never missed a game at Union College), Tara Gray (a two-time NCAA Frozen Four champ), Laura McIntosh (the all-time leading scorer at Ohio State), Charissa Stadnyk (former captain at Princeton), and CIS goaltender Liz Knox (who became the first rookie to start a Clarkson Cup championship game).

“I spent a lot of time evaluating NCAA and CIS talent. Our program had a phenomenal handle on kids coming out of school. We were looking to cater to our needs in the Draft rather than take a stab in the dark on just stats.”

Employing great acumen and maturity, Katz is ready to write the next chapter of her career. She is confident that her superlative leadership in Brampton shall help the CWHL take its next great leap. As she stated in a CWHL press release, “I have absolutely loved helping Brampton build a championship culture as general manager, and am looking forward to applying what I learned while with the team to my new position, in order to help the league continue to develop, grow and become the very best we can be.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

European detour leads Jess Jones to first round of 2013 CWHL Draft

Having bypassed the 2012 CWHL Draft and opting for Europe, Jess Jones’ decision was a surprise to many fans. After graduating from the Mercyhurst Lakers, she competed for Pantera Minsk in Belarus during the 2012-13 campaign. After a historic performance with her new club, the window to play for the CWHL was still wide open at season’s end.

Playing against Wisconsin's Brianna Decker in her final NCAA Game (Photo credit: M.P. King, Wisconsin State Journal)

Playing against Wisconsin’s Brianna Decker in her final NCAA Game (Photo credit: M.P. King, Wisconsin State Journal)

Obtained by the Brampton Thunder in the first round (third overall) of the 2013 CWHL Draft, it was the most logocal option for new General Manager Lori Dupuis. Facing the loss of Jayna Hefford (the CWHL’s all-time leading scorer), third-generation star Gillian Apps, Vicki Bendus and Bailey Bram (another Mercyhurst alumnae) to Canada’s centralization camp, Brampton faced a decimated offense heading into the season.

Compounded by the retirement of Cherie Piper, Jones becomes a key piece to Brampton’s rebuilding puzzle. After four coaches in two seasons, penalty problems and a heartbreaking loss to the Toronto Furies in the Clarkson Cup playoffs, Jones is a breath of fresh air for the beleaguered franchise.
With the selection of Jess Jones third overall in the 2013 CWHL Draft, it marks the third consecutive year that a Mercyhurst Lakers player is selected in the first round. In 2011, Meghan Agosta (drafted first overall by Montreal), Vicki Bendus and Jesse Scanzano were first round picks. The following year, goaltender Hillary Pattenden followed in Agosta’s footsteps and was drafted first overall by the Alberta Hockey Club.

In 138 career games with the Mercyhurst Lakers, she would log 154 career points. Complemented by four College Hockey American regular season titles and four NCAA tournament appearances, Jones is a proven winner that can help restore the pride in Brampton.

Her scoring flair continued last season with Pantera Minsk. Having played in just 19 games, she recorded 28 goals and 25 assists for a sterling 53 point output. As the only Canadian on the team, she would emerge as the leading scorer for the European Women’s Hockey League club.

Participating in the 2013 EWHL Supercup, Jones contributed eight points as she helped Pantera Minsk grab their first-ever championship. In dramatic fashion, Jones would score twice in the title game, a 6-1 triumph over defending champion Sabres Vienna. Her sparkling performance was complemented by a nod to the Tournament All-Star team.

It is that type of performance that Brampton fans will hope Jones can provide in the near future as the beleaguered Thunder continue to chase that elusive Clarkson Cup championship.

With Brampton in a rebuilding year, Jones certainly stands a key building block for a brighter future ahead. The eventual return of former Mercyhurst teammates and current Thunder superstars Bailey Bram and Vicki Bendus from the Canadian centralization camp will create a remarkable scoring line, reuniting the Lakers legends of seasons past.

Next to Jessica Wong, Jones may be the only other first round pick that will be expected to carry the lion’s share of the offensive load. Although Jones’ leadership skills and offensive play making abilities make her a strong Rookie of the Year candidate, her inaugural season in the CWHL will certainly be a baptism of fire.