Georges Laraque's demise as an NHL enforcer
Once upon a time Georges Laraque was one of the most feared enforcers in the NHL. He was even unanimously awarded the 'Best Fighter' award from The Hockey News in 2003. In 2008, Sports Illustrated named him the number one enforcer in the league.
During his days an an Oiler, Laraque racked up the penalty minutes, 826 in 490 games, while scoring the occasional goal here and there. Also known as "Big Georges" or simply "BGL", Laraque even scored 13 goals and 16 assists for 29 points in 2001-01 with Edmonton.
BGL's good old days:
After short stints with the Phoenix Coyotes and the Pittsburgh Penguins, Bob Gainey signed BGL to a 3-year $4.5M contract on July 3rd, 2008. Gainey needed to add toughness to a small corps of forwards as his team had been outplayed physically in the 2008 playoffs against the Philadelphia Flyers and the Boston Bruins.
However, things didn't go as planned last season, during which Laraque played only 33 games due to recurring back spasms, as well as groin and lower body injuries. Laraque recorded 2 assists and 61 penalty minutes throughout the course of the season.
Ex-NHL enforcer Georges Laraque even decided to turn vegan on June 1st, 2009, to protest animal abuse after having been vegetarian for some time. Georges has already blogged on his Website about his activism, participating in an anti-fur protest in Canada. Georges Laraque's Website While the cause is quite noble, Laraque should concentrate on playing hockey and getting in game shape during summer.
Things went from bad to worse this season, when BGL found himself in the midst of a fuss after appearing in a TV advertisement that came into controversy with women's groups and league rules on alcohol.
Georges Laraque's controversial ad
The NHL was quite unhappy about Laraque appearing in an advertisement for an alcohol drink which showed the Montreal Canadiens enforcer playing street hockey with several scantily clad women. The NHL could have punished Laraque, as according to Article 25.1 of the league's collective bargaining agreement,no player can sponsor or endorse an alcoholic beverage. Laraque apologized about the ad and avoided any further punishment from the league.
Back in November, Laraque also received a five-game suspension for injuring Detroit's Nicklas Kronwall during a game against the Red Wings. Kronwall suffered a badly sprained MCL to his left knee on the incident. BGL, who stuck out his leg out and tripped Kronwall on the play, only received a two-minute minor for tripping. Kronwall has suffered a setback in his recovery and he has yet to return in the Red Wings' line-up, more than eight weeks after the injury occurred.
While Laraque was perhaps the most dangerous fighter in the league during the past decade, now he is frequently criticized by fans for not dropping his gloves enough, not defending his teammates and not provoking anything on the ice. When BGL doesn't fight and hit the opponent, he is worthless to his team.
Most people say his gentlemanly refusal to fight weaker and smaller players, combined with his own modest hockey skills, makes him a liability on the ice. No wonder why Jacques Martin has made a healthy scratch several times this year or used only three minutes per game. With only four fights this season in 25 games,
Big Georges recently told the Montreal media that he wanted to play more and contribute, that he felt useless by playing so few minutes, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who believes he would be playing 8-10 minutes per game if he was doing his job properly, that is, throw his big body around, stand up for his teammates, crash the opponent's net and fight more that once every six games...
As a result, BGL is not making any friends in Montreal this season and Bob Gainey surely regrets giving him that much money over three years.