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.

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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.

New era begins in CWHL as Team Alberta is rechristened Calgary Inferno

A bold statement was made on September 23, 2013 as Team Alberta and blue and gold sweaters were retired. Prior to the exhibition game between the Calgary Flames and the New York Rangers, the new name and jerseys were unveiled. Going by the name of the Calgary Inferno, it marks a tremendous shift for the third year franchise.

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With the franchise’s four defensive stalwarts, Jocelyne Larocque, Meaghan Mikkelson, Tara Watchorn and Kelsey Webster, at centre ice for the ceremonial puck drop, it started a bold and exciting chapter. Although Larocque, Mikkelson and Watchorn will forego the season as they are part of Canada’s Centralization Camp (in order to gain a spot for the Sochi Winter Games), Webster shall have a much bigger leadership role this season.
Appointed as a representative for the CWHL Players Association in the upcoming season, it is a fitting tribute for such a dedicated athlete.

Appropriately, this new-look uniform borrows from the Calgary Flames jersey design. Incorporating the colors of red, white, yellow and black, it also uses the striping pattern from the Flames jerseys. The new Inferno logo shall adorn the shoulder. As the Flames (along with the Toronto Maple Leafs) have been onboard as CWHL sponsors since November 2012, it has brought a sense of vitality and sustainability to the budding league.

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Including an offseason that began with the acquisition of Jessica Wong as the first pick overall in the CWHL Draft, the franchise continues to gain momentum. In addition, the Inferno made some more history in the draft by selecting an Australian-born player (Georgia Moore) for the first time, along with a member of the Canadian national women’s tackle football team (Julie Paetsch).

The sharp new look and exciting direction of the franchise certainly points to brighter days. As Team Alberta (also known as the Alberta Honeybadgers) finished their first two seasons with the worst record in the league, this is an effort to inject new life in the promising franchise.

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With the Inferno’s home opener on November 29 versus the Toronto Furies, the franchise has a group of exciting draft picks and solid veterans. Led by head coach and former NHLer Tim Bothwell, he is also the head coach of the Canadian women’s Under-22/Development Team. A strong foundation with Kathy Desjardins and DeLayne Brian between the pipes, along with Webster leading the blueline corps should bring the Inferno its strongest season yet.

While the next goal for the Inferno is to earn their first berth in the Clarkson Cup playoffs, the new look is a reminder that the Team Alberta days are now part of the past. This year’s theme is moving forward and the path towards the future brings with it a renewed optimism.