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Canadian hockey player says she's sorry for taking off silver medal. That's nice, but she didn't need to apologize

Dan Wetzel
Columnist

GANGNEUNG, South Korea – Canadian women’s hockey player Jocelyne Larocque apologized Friday for immediately taking off a silver medal that had been draped around her neck at Thursday’s medal ceremony after a penalty-shootout loss to the United States.

“I want to apologize,” Larocque said in a 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.”

Canadians are known for being nice and polite and things like that. Even hockey players most of the time. So, if Larocque wants to apologize, she is free to apologize.

She didn’t need to, though. If anything, that moment she saw a silver medal as something too painful to have hanging from her neck was just the latest reminder of the intense, this-is-life rivalry between the U.S. and Canada. Raw emotion like that doesn’t merit an apology.

It was awesome.

By taking off the medal, she didn’t show how little it meant to her. She actually showed how much it did.

Jocelyne Larocque (second from right) immediately took off her silver medal after losing to Team USA. (AP)

There is some context that should be considered here. The game was an incredibly heated affair, 60 minutes of regulation, 20 more minutes of 4-on-4 sudden-victory hockey and then six rounds of penalty-shot shootout. Half the Gangneung Ice Center was on the verge of cardiac arrest. The players were spent, physically, mentally and, especially, emotionally.

What the two teams put on the ice was something to behold. Everyone was operating on adrenaline at the end. When the Americans won, they hugged and cried and celebrated. When the Canadians lost, they wept, huddled on the bench and rested their heads on the boards. The roles could have been reversed. In the previous few Olympics, they were.

Because this was the gold-medal game, the Canadians were not allowed to leave the ice and go to their dressing room. Instead, they had run through a profound and painful disappointment in public … hanging on and around their bench, stuck watching the other team celebrate in front of them.

It stands to reason that even 10 minutes in the locker room would have changed things. The chance to grieve with each other and console each other might have put the players in a different place – not happy, but not living as such an open wound.

By the time the medal ceremony came, it was understandable few Canadians wanted to be there. Hence the medal rejection.

Most importantly, though, this was how Jocelyne Larocque wanted to deal with it. It’s her silver. She can do whatever she wants with it. Maybe audiences back home believe they would appreciate it more or believe any medal should be cherished, but they didn’t just win that one. Larocque did.

Women’s hockey is a unique sport. There are only two teams that are capable of winning the gold medal – the United States and Canada. They meet for this prize just once every four years. The stakes are incredible, it’s you or it’s them. And then you work and wait and prepare for four more years. Larocque, at 29, can’t be certain there will be a next time.

There is almost nothing else like it in sports. Which is why the rivalry has captivated fans around the globe and elevated women’s hockey, in North America at least.

Jocelyne Larocque (left) holds her silver medal after losing to the United States in the women’s gold-medal hockey game. (AP)

In other sports a silver might represent coming in second, a great achievement in the world. If you play for the United States or Canada, though, a silver can represent loss. It’s a zero-sum game. Your team was pretty much assured of getting at least silver once the torch here was lit, so either win gold or you get a consolation prize. It’s certainly an accomplishment to make the team and represent your country – all of which Larocque acknowledges.

The value of the medal, though, is based on its owner. It’s their medal.

When she took it off, too disappointed and too wrecked to even acknowledge its existence, she wasn’t insulting the Olympics or the rivalry or the sport.

She was making a clear statement just how much it all meant.

No need to apologize for that. Jocelyne Larocque should be applauded, one more moment in an epic Olympic rivalry.

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