LARAQUE: NHL STEROID USE WIDESPREAD?

EdmontonOilers2

Former Edmonton Oiler Georges Laraque doesn’t name names, but the retired tough guy says the use of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs was not uncommon during his time in the NHL.

In a book to be released by Viking Canada, The Story of the NHL’s Unlikeliest Tough Guy, that is bound to send ripples through the NHL, Laraque, who played parts of 13 seasons with the Oilers, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens, refers to the use of performance-enhancing drugs by NHL players.

What Laraque, 34, who retired after the 2009-10 season and is now deputy leader of the federal Green Party, doesn’t divulge in his references to the use of PEDs in his autobiography is who, when and where.

The question now is, will the always quotable Laraque, who filled notepads, hosted a radio show in Edmonton and was a regular off-season guest on Bob Stauffer’s popular Total Sports afternoon drive show on TEAM 1260 during his playing days, follow up and provide details?

I’m guessing we’ll find out soon enough when Laraque tours in support of his book.

ACCORDING TO GEORGES

“I have to say here that tough guys weren’t the only players using steroids in the NHL,” said in the book.

“It was true that quite a lot of them did use this drug, but other, more talented players did too. Most of us knew who they were, but not a single player, not even me, would ever think of raising his hand to break the silence and accuse a fellow player.”

Laraque, who played 490 regular season games with the Oilers and still lives in Edmonton, says use of steroids and other drugs wasn’t limited to the fraternity of players who earned their keep as tough guys.

“First, you just have to notice how some talented players will experience an efficiency loss as well as a weight loss every four years, those years being the ones the Winter Olympics are held.

“In the following season they make a strong comeback; they manage a mysterious return to form.”

In The Story of the NHL’s Unlikeliest Tough Guy, a wide-ranging look at Laraque’s life and career that mentions use of performance-enhancing drugs by unnamed players but doesn’t make the issue a focus in the 300-page book  — he refers to facing opponents jacked up on steroids and other substances.

“Before a game, as I would warm up on the ice, I would always look at the tough guy on the other side,” he wrote.

“If his arms were trembling, if his eyes were bulging, I knew for sure he wasn’t going to feel any of the punches I would give him.”

IGNORING THE ISSUE

While testing for performance-enhancing drugs was included in the CBA reached between the NHL and NHLPA in 2005 — players can be subjected to three no-notice tests from the start of training camp through the end of the regular season — Laraque claims there initially was reluctance to recognize a problem.

Laraque says he first approached the NHLPA with concerns shortly after he broke into the NHL with the Oilers during the 1997-98 season.

“They wanted to keep drug testing as a card in their negotiations with the league,” he wrote. “Plus, since their main goal was to protect the players, to take action against drugs would have harmed some of those players.”

While the NHL and NHLPA has yet to respond to Laraque’s contentions about the use of performance-enhancing drugs, there’s bound to be plenty of fall-out in coming weeks. I’ve put a call into Laraque to see if he’d like to fill in some of the blanks and name names.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: SOME CONTEXT

Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail has written a column I think is worth reading on Laraque’s decision to mention the use of performance-enhancing drugs in his book and some of the reaction directed his way for doing so. Blair’s column can be found here www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/jeff-blair/will-georges-laraques-claims-about-hockey-and-steroids-fall-on-deaf-ears/article2227405/.

At the very least, Blair’s column lends some context to the Canadian Press report that I and others have referenced or published, to the issues Laraque has raised and the reaction he’s received in recent days. 

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • A-Mc

    Not Necessarily PED related:

    I wonder if one day the NHL will have player size restrictions to help reduce the potential for serious injury.

    It occurs to me that the 175lb RNH would be destroyed by a solid hit from a guy weighing 245lbs.

    Would a 180lb minimum, 220lb maximum be too restrictive?

    I’m not usually a fan of restrictions. And in it’s own way, the game of hockey is weeding out the big guys anyway with its speed. But for player safety, is there any benefit to imposing physical requirements.

    • Jerk Store

      Interesting but not practical. The number of lawsuits against the league would be staggering. Also, there are times a Gretzky or certainly a Gilmour among others would have been ineligible.

      Edit: Sorry Arch did not mean to ride on your coat tails. I started typing before seeing your response. As an aside the NBA was considering a development league a few years ago where the max height was 6’4″ or something. I don’t think it ever got off the ground (no pun intended).

  • A-Mc

    Would the lawsuits be based on discrimination? or would it be players that are 245 bitching that 220lbs is out of line and that they are no longer able to be employed in the NHL? (i understand that cutting 25 lbs is no easy feat and would take a few seasons to do it properly to maintain competitive status the entire way).

    question: For a player to drop from 245 to 220 or even 230, is that too much weight loss to maintain a healthy state? I’ll admit that I’m not entirely sure how much a 6’5″ athlete SHOULD weigh to be considered Normal. Duby is 6’5″ and 210; an extra 10-15lbs for a player should be acceptable, no?

    What if the NHL and the NHLPA gave teams a 5 year plan stating that in 5 years, players must not exceed XX pounds, and that they have 5 years to rework their assets to conform to these changes.

    ps: I’m not entirely sure that weight is a big deal anyway, I’m more or less exploring the idea; good or bad.

    • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

      There’s just no way, at least IMHO, that any union would allow restrictions like that to be put into place.

      That’s why they have the NHLPA.

      • A-Mc

        Why? If it’s obvious to you why that is something that is Bad. Dumb. Never-going-to-happen, then please explain it to me.

        I’m not saying this is an answer to any issues we have, I’m just exploring the idea. So far, people have only offered the answer of ‘no’ with out explaining why it would flop.

        Please explain yourself.

  • A-Mc

    It has been about three years since I have cared about any kind of steroid accusation. I find it very hard to care, no matter what the sport. You could tell me that Tiger Woods has been using steroids for his entire golf career and it wouldn’t diminish his accomplishments through my lens.

    Laraque’s comments are not surprising, upsetting, or concerning to me in the least.

  • A-Mc

    A quick stats query of last year shows me that there are 72 players out of 681 that are Above 230lbs or below 180lbs. The Ends of the spectrum are extreme @ 270lbs and 157lbs.

    PS: Updated using NHL.com stats instead of an inaccurate program i used earlier off the iNet.

      • A-Mc

        Ok. I see the ‘stats program’ i’m using that i found online shows his weight as 230 for 2010-11 season. That number isn’t reflected on the Bruins NHL.com page, so obviously the WT stat in this program isn’t accurate.

        Thanks for pointing this out!

        is there a place people go to to get a good database of ACCURATE stats for players/teams? I’m basically looking for something that will allow me to dick around with things in an Excel-like program

        • Romulus' Apotheosis

          what’s wrong with the numbers NHL teams quote about their own players? That seems as solid a source as any other. Although, they too are neglectful (the other day we discovered the Oiler’s “in the system” page is woefully out of date).

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            Glad you sorted something out. Hope your mucky-mucking about is fruitful, or at least fun.

            PS. Landeskog. Yea… I knew I would get called on that, hence the “radically imperfect.” I had in mind more a mix of attributes that the League clearly values, ie. youth, talent, etc. I just thought that suspension was a bit rough and part of the reason why was because Sutton is a minor figure in hockey (not a Pronger or Chara), who is also huge and Landeskog is clearly a future NHL poster boy (and while not undersized in the least, is considerably smaller than Sutton).

            pps. I watched the Buffalo/Ottawa game on Sat. and they mentioned that Gerbe is the shortest player in the NHL (5’5″) and he is 178lbs so to be only 145 is crazy to me. That player would need super speed and evasion skills to stay safe I would imagine. By the way, Gerbe pooched his shootout attempt pretty good.

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      Whoa… who’s 145lbs? that’s extreme featherweight territory.

      On topic: I see what you are gesturing at but agree with others that it is impractical. Small players need to find their niche, whether is it evasion (RNH) or hitting above their weight (Fleury). NHL competition is so elite that it tends to weed out people like MacIntyre who can’t skate, or at least severely limit their ice time.

      If we are going to blacklist players it should be performance based, i.e., I’d be happy to have the league decide Avery is such a blight on the sport his presence is no longer acceptable… But a guy like MacIntyre… if he can earn a spot somewhere I don’t begrudge him his position, or his size.

      Mind you I take it for granted that teams teach a guy like that his “role” and expect him to play it. If he goes after RNH, for example, I expect the League to come down hard (in a radically imperfect analogy see Sutton on Landeskog)

      • A-Mc

        Paul Byron was listed as 145lbs in this program i was using. It has been pointed out to me that these weights are inaccurate anyway so ignore the 145lbs, i can’t trust this DB.

        ps: Landeskog isn’t a lightweight though, just young; isn’t the kid over 200lbs? He’s a solid chap.

        PSS: i don’t necessarily believe that weight limits are/would solve anything. Again, I’m just exploring different ideas to see if they have merit. It’s clear that people are against weight limitations imposed on the basis of player safety. Admittedly, weight might be a very minor part of the equation when it comes to players being hurt in a collision. Physics would dictate otherwise, but physics doesn’t account for dirty hits (which i would think is the major cause of injury. ie: hitting from behind and Hits to the head).

  • Rob...

    ~I hear the latest steroid of choice gives you a long face, puffy lips, and make you think you can beat the trap by skating as fast as you can along the boards into the opponents zone, regardless how many times the move fails.

  • Crackenbury

    Until someone names names or provides direct evidence of PED’s in the NHL it’s a non-story. Laraque’s quotes to-date do nothing to help in the fight against PED’s and I fear he will regret mentioning it if he is not prepared to back it up.

    So-called whistle blowers that sound the alarm but are too afraid to say what they know should either keep their mouths shut or open up completely. There is no in-between.

      • Crackenbury

        Man- up or shut-up. It’s a simple concept and one that our entire legal system is based on. It seems to be outdated though. Any wingnut can throw out whatever rumour or innuendo they feel like these days and have no consequences.

        Laraque says he knows the abusers, be a man and spit it out. His comments are nothing more than PR to sell his book much like his recent quote how Gretzky was his worst coach ever. He refuses to elaborate on that as well. I used to think Laraque wasn’t all that bright, but he sure knows how to self-promote.