By GRANT ROBERTSON
Friday, February 23, 2018
PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA -- For more than half an hour no one could make Jocelyne Larocque wear her silver medal. Not the person handing them out. Not her teammates - who knew better than to mention it. And not the American fans shouting from the stands: "Put your medal on!"
And then someone finally forced her.
After leaving the ice heartbroken, and struggling to answer postgame questions for reporters, Larocque had almost made it to the dressing room when an official from hockey's governing body pulled her aside and gave her a talking to.
Few people witnessed it, but there was Larocque, tears welling up in her eyes, holding her unwanted silver medal, being told by a man in a suit about the "legal" reasons why she can't refuse to wear it.
This was the Olympics, the official from the International Ice Hockey Federation explained. It doesn't matter how sad you are. Or how angry, or disappointed. There are rules.
Larocque nodded and stared at the floor. The IIHF official strode quickly out of the room and disappeared.
A few minutes earlier, Larocque was asked why, after the silver was hung around her neck on the ice, she couldn't bear to wear it.
"Just hard," she said. "We were going for gold."
Was the silver medal any consolation?
"I mean, yeah," she said.
"Once we reflect. But now, not at the moment."
The 3-2 shootout loss the Canadian women's hockey team suffered to their bitter rivals from the United States left each of Canada's 23 players stunned, devastated, or in tears. It was an outcome they weren't used to, with Canada having won the past four gold-medal finals at the Olympics, three of those over the Americans.
Few players were as visibly affected by it all as Larocque, who stood defiantly on the ice, holding the medal in her hands, as her teammates reluctantly accepted theirs.
She just didn't want it.
"I definitely understand it," U.S. coach Robb Stauber said.
"It's a very heated rivalry."
When Canada won gold four years ago in Sochi, the women stole the victory from the Americans in the dying moments of the game. Trailing 2-0 with less than three minutes left, Canada scored once, and with the net empty the Americans hit the post. Canada tied it, then won in overtime. In a matter of minutes, gold turned to silver for the United States, "Ten players were with us in 2014, they know what it feels like," Stauber said. "We're very fortunate that we're on the other end of it."
Few people in the arena knew more about how Larocque felt than her coach, Laura Schuler. In 1998, the last time the U.S. women's team won gold, beating Canada 3-1 in Nagano, Schuler was on that team.
Could she empathize with Larocque's decision?
"For sure," Schuler said. "You feel like you've let a country down."
The conversation with the IIHF official ended with Larocque nodding compliantly and agreeing to wear the medal. She understood the situation.
She then turned a corner and walked down the hallway leading to the Canadian dressing room.
It's not clear if she ever put it back on.
The Canadian team accepts their silver medals after losing to the United States on Thursday. Larocque, second from the left, refused to wear her medal.
BRUCE BENNETT/GETTY IMAGES