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Warm welcome home for gold medal winner Larocque

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Watching the puck hit the post and almost slip into the Canadian goal was the only time gold-medal-winning hockey player Jocelyne Larocque felt frightened during her Canada-U.S. Olympic final.

Otherwise, in arguably the most intense few moments of the 2014 Games, the Ste. Anne product focused on staying calm, sticking to the team's plan and believing a win was still possible.

"That was the most exciting game I ever played in and not just because it was for a gold medal. The game itself was so exciting," said Larocque, minutes after stepping off a plane in Winnipeg Thursday afternoon. "That was the only moment, really, that I was really scared. When I saw that puck trickle down the ice I was like 'Oh, no.' "

Larocque was greeted at Richardson International Airport by a round of applause from passengers and hugs from her mother, grandparents and a gaggle of young cousins who shyly touched the defenceman's heavy gold medal.

"Each day it becomes more real. At first I didn't even believe it," said Larocque. "Everything I've worked toward with hockey, it comes down to winning a gold medal, and it just feels great."

Nancy Larocque, who was in Sochi, Russia, to watch the women's hockey team play, said she was more nervous than her daughter during the nail-biter gold-medal game. Nancy was only able to relax slightly when that American shot on an empty Canadian goal pinged off the post with just a few minutes left in the game.

"That's when I said 'This is meant to happen,' " said Nancy. "There was some karma in the air."

That moment was also key for the rest of Larocque's family, who gathered in Steinbach to watch the gold-medal final. "When the puck trickled and hit the post, it was absolutely quiet. Then, when we scored, we must have scared the whole neighbourhood," said Mike Dyck, Larocque's grandfather. "That was bedlam."

Larocque dropped the puck at Thursday night's Winnipeg Jets game -- a huge honour, she said. And she's slated to do a round of media interviews and speaking events at schools as well as taking time to visit with family members she hasn't seen since Christmas. After that, she has a few months off hockey.

Both Larocque and her mother said they hope the attention women's hockey earned at the Olympics, eclipsing even the star-studded men's final, bodes well for women's sports.

Larocque is set to visit the Winnipeg Free Press News Café at 10:30 a.m. Friday.

maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 9:36 PM CST: Adds details of Larocque's upcoming News Café appearance.

February 28, 2014 at 3:11 AM: Write-thru

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