For more than 30 years, Penny LaRocque has shown that an athlete can combine the height of grace with a hunger to win. LaRocque is one of Nova Scotia’s most decorated curlers, having skipped her 1983 team to the Scott Tournament of Hearts championship. She’s already a member of the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame, having been inducted in 1989. But LaRocque, a Yarmouth native who resides in the Halifax suburbs, is equally admired for her success on the ice with an uncompromising respect for her sport, her teammates and her competitors. Along with her 19 Nova Scotia titles women’s (5), senior women’s (7), mixed (5), and senior mixed (2), she has been named, on six occasions, the most sportsmanlike player at a national competition. She not only won the 1983 Scott, she won the sportsmanship award as well.
LaRocque was well into her 20s when a mutual friend introduced her and her husband, Guy, to curling. It was a different world for female curlers when LaRocque began curling at a competitive level in 1974. Women struggled to get ice-time in the mostly-male domain. She would go to the curling club late at night and squeeze in some practice after the men’s leagues wrapped up. She never considered herself a natural athlete and compensated with an appetite for work, bordering on compulsion. She won her first Nova Scotia women’s title as the second for Myers in 1974. She skipped a winner for the first time in 1978, placing second at nationals, and followed up in 1979 with a team that included a young Colleen Jones at second.
Her team of Pam Sanford, Cathy Caudle, and Sharon Horne, with Myers as coach, broke through for the Canadian championship in 1983 in Prince George, B.C. It came in a year when all four players, curling out of CFB Halifax, made an unparalleled commitment in their preparation. They worked with nutritionists, fitness instructors, and sport psychologists, something unheard of at the time. LaRocque had dreamt of making the last shot to win the championship and her dream came true. She had rehearsed the last toss in her mind hundreds of times while lying in bed at night. She and her teammates debated placement o the last shot until LaRocque put down her broom. She nailed a draw to the button through a port. The team went on to place third at the world championship in Moose Jaw, Sask.
Her fifth and last Nova Scotia women’s crown came as the mate for Jones in 1986. She won her Nova Scotia mixed championships in 1979, 1981, 1984, and 1987. She skipped senior winners in 2004 and 2005 and skipped the last two winners in 2006 and 2007. She retired with four consecutive senior crowns curling out of Mayflower. LaRocque set a standard for hard work and physical fitness which she carried throughout her career, even into her final game in the sport. A tremendous role model for young female players, she showed it was possible to combine winning with unfailing pleasantness.
More than a curler, LaRocque lists her greatest physical accomplishment as running the stairway to the top of the CN Tower in Toronto during a Canadian fitness challenge in which she qualified to participate. She also has club-level golf championships at Hartlen Point and Glen Arbour, but never approached golf as passionately because of the intensity she gave to curling. “I didn’t think that was fair to my husband,” she said.
• Inducted Canadian Curling Hall of Fame 1989
• 5 Women’s Nova Scotia Titles
• 7 Senior Women’s Nova Scotia Titles
• 5 Mixed Nova Scotia Titles
• 2 Senior Mixed Nova Scotia Titles
• Six-Time Most Sportsmanlike Player
• Won 1983 Scott Tournament of Hearts Championship
• Won Sportsmanship Award at 1983 Scott’s Tournament
• Won 1st NS Women’s Title as Second for Myers 1974
• Skipped 1st win in 1978
• Won 1983 Canadian Championship with her team
• Won NS Mixed Championships ’79, ’81, ’82, ’84, ’87
• Skipped Senior Winners ’96, ’98, ’01
• Retires with 4 consecutive Senior Crowns Mayflower
• Skip 1983 Scott Tournament of Hearts Championship