Elite-level athletes thrive on routine – sleep, train, eat. Heading into a
major event, it’s more of the same – sleep, train, eat. Which is very
similar to the routine for seven-month-old Wesley Lehoux and five-month-old
Ayanna Larocque – sleep, play, eat.
Long-time friends, teammates and former members of the Canadian Forces,
Antoine Lehoux and Dominic Larocque are experiencing the joys of fatherhood
for the first time, at the same time. But this week, at the 2021 IPC World
Para Hockey Championship, they are also experiencing another first
together: being away from their babies.
“I don’t mind, I understand what’s at stake, but for [Wesley], in his baby
head, he doesn’t know what’s going on,” says Lehoux. “Of course, it makes
me sad to be away from him and know he might miss me, but thanks to
technology, I’m able to speak with my girlfriend (Pamela) and see my little
boy every day.”
“It took some time before I finally decided to go,” says Larocque. “I
hadn’t been playing much hockey for the past 15 months, I was always at
home. We kind of settled into that little routine; we got cozy.”
One positive to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, says Lehoux, was the
ability to be present all day, every day for Wesley. Larocque also hasn’t
spent more than a few hours away from Ayanna, most of that when he met with
Lehoux and Anton Jacobs-Webb in Montreal to train once a week.
“It’s not easy, but we’re working with what we’ve got, and other countries
too; it’s not a typical season, it’s not a typical tournament,” Larocque
Lehoux, a product of Thetford Mines, Que., is making his third appearance
at a world championship, while Larocque, from Quebec City, is at his sixth.
Both new dads credit their partners with being incredibly resilient over
the last few months and are grateful to be able to pursue a world title,
even with so much going on at home. In fact, Lehoux says with a smile,
Wesley is in much better hands with Pamela than if he were left alone with
“[Pamela] knew what we were getting into together, having a kid while I’m
playing for the national team,” Lehoux says. “I’m so grateful that she
accepted to do this sacrifice with me.”
Lehoux says Wesley is a curious and active little boy, who has been
wide-eyed ever since he was born. Always trying to figure out how a toy
works or what is happening around him – just a curious person. But Ayanna,
Larocque says, is a very calm baby who mostly just sleeps.
“She goes to bed after bath time around 7 p.m. and usually doesn’t wake up
before 6 a.m. in the morning,” Larocque says with a smile, knowing how many
parents are envious of his luck.
Luck may play into a baby’s sleeping habits, but for Canada’s National Para
Hockey Team, hard work is going to get them to their goal of a gold medal.
Team Canada finished second in 2019, the last time the tournament was held,
also in Ostrava, Czech Republic. The 2020 tournament was cancelled due to
Plus, Lehoux and Larocque have a little more motivation this time.
“It’s not even just about winning the medal anymore. I think I owe it to my
son who, even though he doesn’t realize this yet, makes the sacrifice of
being away from his dad this whole time, as does my girlfriend,” says
Lehoux. “I don’t want to come home to Quebec empty-handed, or even with a
silver or bronze medal. As Canadians, we go for gold all the time, but I’d
say even more so for me this year, because I would feel like I let down my
family, who is making that sacrifice with me.”
“It’s something you can’t really understand until you become a parent,”
adds Larocque. “You might get the idea when others tell you about it, but
it’s completely different when it’s your own kid.”