TOP 100 OILERS: GEORGES LARAQUE (71)

“Hat-trick, Georges Laraque. Hat-trick, Georges Laraque. And they’re going wild!” There’s countless YouTube clips showing Georges Laraque battering opponents into submission, but when I think of his 490 games with the Edmonton Oilers, what sticks with me is Rod Phillips calling the only three-goal game of Laraque’s NHL career, Feb. 21, 2001 against the Los Angeles Kings.

For me, the jubilation Laraque showed after tucking a backhand behind Stephane Fiset, and the joyous dance he did in the dressing room afterward, is what captures the essence of who and what he was – a man whose ability to inflict damage with his fists on the ice was surpassed and contrasted by his zest for life and a penchant for kindness and compassion for others. He was, as the title of the book he wrote in retirement, Georges Laraque, the Story of the NHL’s Unlikeliest Tough Guy, a contradiction.

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Laraque wasn’t the best enforcer the Oilers ever had. Dave Semenko, who rode shotgun for Wayne Gretzky, and Dave Brown, a stone-cold killer, top that list. Laraque couldn’t compete with them. He didn’t have a mean bone in his body despite being the most feared fighter in the game for six or seven years. Laraque wasn’t a bully. He liked to laugh more than he liked to fight. He didn’t want to hurt anybody. Thank goodness for that.

Georges Laraque

Left Wing — shoots R

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Born Dec 7 1976 — Montreal, PQ 


Height 6.04 — Weight 245 [193 cm/111 kg]

Drafted by Edmonton Oilers


Round 2 #31 overall 1995 NHL Entry Draft

BY THE NUMBERS

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Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM +/- Po GP G A Pts PIM
1997-98 Edmonton Oilers NHL 11 0 0 0 59 -4
1997-98 Hamilton Bulldogs AHL 46 10 20 30 154 6 3 0 0 0 11
1998-99 Edmonton Oilers NHL 39 3 2 5 57 -1 4 0 0 0 2
1998-99 Hamilton Bulldogs AHL 25 6 8 14 93 -2
1999-00 Edmonton Oilers NHL 76 8 8 16 123 5 5 0 1 1 6
2000-01 Edmonton Oilers NHL 82 13 16 29 148 5 6 1 1 2 8
2001-02 Edmonton Oilers NHL 80 5 14 19 157 6
2002-03 Edmonton Oilers NHL 64 6 7 13 110 -4 6 1 3 4 4
2003-04 Edmonton Oilers NHL 66 6 11 17 99 7
2005-06 Edmonton Oilers NHL 72 2 10 12 73 -5 15 1 1 2 44
2006-07 Phoenix Coyotes NHL 56 5 17 22 52 7
2006-07 Pittsburgh Penguins NHL 17 0 2 2 18 -3 2 0 0 0 0
2007-08 Pittsburgh Penguins NHL 71 4 9 13 141 0 15 1 2 3 4
2008-09 Montreal Canadiens NHL 33 0 2 2 61 -6 4 0 0 0 4
2009-10 Montreal Canadiens NHL 28 1 2 3 28 -6
NHL Totals 695 53 100 153 1126 57 4 8 12 72

NOTABLE

Georges

I first met Laraque moments after the Oilers selected him 31st overall in the 1995 Entry Draft in Edmonton. We still keep in touch today. In between, we jumped jets and rode the bus around the NHL together for eight seasons. Georges was one row behind me and, between yapping on his cell phone and bending my ear, it seemed he never shut up once during the time he spent here. We talked a lot. We laughed a lot.

Laraque sometimes drew the ire of fans because he didn’t tick every box on the enforcers’ checklist. He wouldn’t jump and pump opponents who took liberties with teammates if they didn’t want to fight. If Georges asked an opposing heavyweight to go and the player turned him down, there was no fight. When that happened, and it happened often, he refused to target skilled players on the other team as a way to even the score. That, in the context of the role he played, was a flaw. An honorable flaw, but a flaw nonetheless. We had that discussion more than once.

The exception came against Buffalo in March 1999. Laraque had asked ruffian Rob Ray of the Sabres to fight in a game here. Ray turned him down, saying he wanted to play. Late in that game, Ray went after Doug Weight. That so enraged Laraque, he made it clear going into the return game in Buffalo Ray was in for trouble. At the morning skate, Ray compounded matters by asking reporters, “What, is he going to beat me up?” The answer to that is here. Yes. Yes, he is. It was an ass-kicking.

THE STORY

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As is the cliché with tough guys, Laraque was a gentle, big-hearted man when he wasn’t at work. In fact, he re-set the bar. When Georges wasn’t making visits to hospitals and schools – on his own time in addition to trips organized the by the Oilers – or working with charities, you could find him playing road hockey in his driveway with kids from the neighborhood. He not only signed jerseys for fans, he delivered them to their houses. If you wanted an NHL player to show up at your kid’s birthday party, Georges was your man. He was generous to a fault.

Laraque’s compassion knew no bounds. I recall a cell phone conversation Georges had late one night on the bus with Stu Grimson, who’d been out of Nashville’s line-up for weeks with post-concussion symptoms after fighting Laraque. Grimson and Laraque threw down with each other every chance they got, and the last time would end the Reaper’s career. Georges called just to see how Grimson was doing, to offer support, to apologize for how things turned out. They talked for 10-15 minutes. “I feel bad,” he said.

Even after Laraque moved on to Phoenix, Pittsburgh and finally Montreal to close out his career after the 2006 Stanley Cup run, he kept a house in southwest Edmonton for several years. He’d host karaoke parties. He continued to work with charities here (and still does) and do guest spots on local radio. Montreal, where he grew up, is his home base, but Laraque still has a soft spot for Edmonton, where he played the best hockey of his career and endeared himself to many.  

This series will look at the top 100 Edmonton Oilers from the NHL era 1979-80 to 2014-15, starting with 100 and working up. 

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

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  • Borbs

    I remember back then the local radio station in Hinton only picked up a game a week. It happened to be the hat-trick game that week. No greater pleasure than to mute the television and listen to Rod call it. And what a call it was too!! I saw Big Georges in my neighbourhood last year on Halloween trick-or-treating. I told him as he passed that he didn’t need a costume, he was scary enough as is. He replied with a little chuckle, and no punching. Phew!

  • jadeddog

    True story here.

    I don’t know how I had Laraque’s email address, but I did. I think he might have posted some address he checked now and again for some reason or another, but I don’t recall exactly. Anyway, I had the address. After he left the Oilers in the summer of 2006, I figured what the hell, I’d try to send an email, fully expecting the email to be a fake, or have some auto-generated thing respond. So I sent him a short email telling him how he was the epitome of class when he was with the Oilers and wishing him luck in the future. Well very shortly after, it might have even been the same day, I got a short email back from him telling me how much he appreciated my sentiment thanking me.

    Nothing but class.

  • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

    Loved Georges!!

    but playing weight of 245 sounds a little generous.

    He was one of the best on the cycle, sticks his a$$ out and watch defense bounce off his rear.

  • MattyFranchise

    That was a starching if ever there was one. Don’t poke the bear Ray!

    I love watching his wrestling match against GSP. His compete level is through the roof for something done on sportsnet just for fun.

    He’s definitely one of my favorite Oilers.

    • Wish I had the audio of Rod Phillips call of the Ray fight, which was sensational.

      I always smile when I see this clip because it’s the Buffalo guy and one of the greatest examples of homerism I’ve heard — he tries to make an absolute beat-down sound like a fight. “Laraque and Ray pounding away at each other” my eye. Ray was hanging on for dear life. Georges was the only guy throwing punches.

      Ray’s face looked like a chunk of raw meat after the game. I give him credit, though. He did come out and do interviews.

  • Leaking5w-30

    71 seems high for a forward who only broke the 10 goal mark twice. Did he get a bump for being a great teammate/ person? If so I support the move… Just wondering.

  • Buke

    Those were some really good numbers for an enforcer. Career Ave per 82 is 6G-18A-24PTS

    As a comparision, Letestu was 8th in Oilers scoring with 82GP-10G-15A-25PTS

    #BEAUTY