Off the Top of My Head: Alex Galchenyuk, Georges Laraque, and around the NHL

Photo credit:Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Robin Brownlee
11 months ago
Having experienced the devastating impact that alcoholism can have first-hand, I was happy to see former Edmonton Oiler Ladislav Smid reference his own battle to stay sober this week in support of Alex Galchenyuk, who issued a statement about his intention to enter the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance program.
It’s been years since I talked with Ladi – the last time was on location at a local golf course with the Jason Gregor Show. I had no idea he was having issues until he mentioned celebrating three months of sobriety Wednesday in tweets directed at Galchenyuk. Substance abuse of any kind isn’t an easy subject to discuss.
I was around Ladi frequently during the 2006-07 season after he arrived from the Anaheim Ducks in the Chris Pronger trade, but I haven’t seen him much since. Smid, a development coach with the Edmonton Oil Kings, was just 20 then, a good-natured kid with a terrific sense of humor. He was fun to be around. He’s 37 now and has been retired as a player since 2015-16.


Photo credit to Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
In a string of four Tweets, Smid wrote: “Unfortunately something bad has to happen for us to realize that we are just human beings and need help from others. Few months ago something bad happened to me and it really scared the shit out of me and my loved ones. It wasn’t until then that I realized that I need help!!!
“Asking for help was the best and bravest thing I’ve ever done. It saved my life! It’s been 3 months of sobriety and I’ve never felt better and my relationships with my family members, especially my wife and kids, never been better. It’s much better solving issues sober!!!” The entire string is here.
When you haven’t walked in somebody’s shoes, it can be easy to point fingers and wonder why a person struggling with alcohol or substance abuse just doesn’t just “straighten up.” I can tell you, It’s not that easy. I don’t know the specifics of Galchenyuk’s situation beyond what we read this week, but I hope he gets straight. As for Ladi, the old cliché is it’s one day at a time. I wish him well.


A video released Thursday by the website DanslesCoulisses.com shows former Oilers’ tough guy Georges Laraque giving fighting tips to Michael Pezzetta of the Montreal Canadiens. It also turns out Big Georges has been schooling players in the art of on-ice pugilism for years. The English translation is here.
From Laraque: “Well, now that it’s public and the site “Dans les Coulisses” has published a video of my training with Michael Pezzetta, I can’t really deny it. For several years now, I have been training players to defend themselves or to fight on the ice. I’ve never shared this publicly because I respect players’ privacy, and at the same time, I don’t want to start doing this on a full-time basis given my busy schedule.”
“I denied it. The papers called and I denied it, but then they put that video up,” Laraque told me Friday. “I said, ‘it’s not me,’ but clearly on the video it’s me . . . it’s about hands, footwork and positioning — how to defend yourself. It’s a lot of things. If you can do it against a big guy like me . . .”
Between all his business ventures and charity work, like with Hockey Helps the Homeless as just one example, I’m surprised Laraque has managed to find the time to teach players like Pezzetta the ropes, but he’s got a motor that never stops running. Just watch out for that looping left hand, kid.


One thing I learned in my years writing against him at The Journal and with him at the Edmonton Sun, is Terry Jones lives to get the story first. Being bumped off the payroll at Post Media and into retirement several months back apparently hasn’t changed that. 
Jones, a member of the writer’s wing in the Hockey Hall of Fame as an Elmer Ferguson Award recipient in 2011, is early out of the blocks again – on Thursday, he picked the Oilers to win the Stanley Cup this coming season.
From Twitter: “My history as a hockey writer going back to “Weak kneed wimps” has not been to be a cheerleader or a fan. But I was pretty much all in for the Oilers five Stanley Cup run and have stopped well short of predicting Cups before or since. But I’m ready. This is the year. Bet on it.”
Jones followed that up with: Having just declared this to be an Edmonton Oilers Stanley Cup year, I don’t think Ken Holland should add another player. I believe Holloway to be missing link on the top six. And I believe GM needs to have cap space to do another deadline deal on defence like he did last year.”
Bet early. Bet often. Or no?

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