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OAKVILLE, ON. — Ever since retiring from the game in 2010, tough guy Georges Laraque has been fairly quiet in terms of being involved with the NHL. But now he wants to return to the game where he used to terrorize opponents night in and night out.
Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal reports that Laraque is interested in returning to the NHL, and would sign almost anywhere willing to take a chance on the 35-year-old.
“I told my agent (Steve Kotlowitz) I’d sign anywhere. I’ll take a physical. I’ll sign a one-year minimum (salary). I’d come in like a rookie,” Laraque told Matheson. “At my age I wouldn’t expect to play every game and if I went from nine minutes a game to four or five, that’s fine. I could be a veteran role player. I can’t see how a team could turn me down with those terms if they want toughness. I want to end on my own terms and I have something to prove. I’m going to be so motivated to play again,” he said.
The last time we saw Laraque play in the NHL came in the 2009-’10 season with the Montreal Canadiens. He signed a multi-year deal July 3, 2008, and after only fivepoints in 61 games, was released from his deal with the Habs. Former Habs coach Jacques Martin didn’t have any confidence in him on the fourth line and the team believed that they could win without the enforcer in the lineup. This, of course, proved to be untrue, with the Habs failing to make the playoffs in 2011-’12 with no true enforcer for most of the season.
Laraque felt Martin wasn’t a fan of him.
“Jacques Martin doesn’t like me and doesn’t believe in toughness,” Laraque told TSN in 2o10.
While all fans can agree with Laraque, true talent should be the focus on this team. But with so many small forwards, a tough guy isn’t a bad option of the fourth line.
Does Laraque have a bad taste in his mouth about the whole Montreal situation?
“No, everybody’s gone, they cleaned ship,” he said, referring to the departures of former GM Bob Gainey and coach Martin in the last year.
Laraque told the Edmonton Journal that with his kids living in Edmonton, he wouldn’t mind signing back with them, if a contract is indeed offered to him. Although a fan favorite, the team already has Darcy Hordichuk and Ben Eager, so unless Hordichuk, who is a free agent July 1st, is released, he doesn’t feel like he will get an opputunity there.
While I’m not suggesting Montreal will sign Laraque, and I don’t expect them too, he does like new head coach Michael Therrien, playing with him in Pittsburgh for a few years, and in junior with the Granby Bisons.
“Michel is really intense. Of all the coaches I’ve had, he wants to win the most in that he’ll go overboard. What I mean is sometimes he’s used tactics that weren’t right, dealing with men,” said Laraque. “He gets every inch of effort out of every player he’s had, but being so intense, it’s normal that after a while people don’t accept the message any longer. But he knows what it takes, and he knows how to win.” Therrien lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Stanley Cup finals in 2008.
While Laraque isn’t as high profile as some of the former NHL’ers to return the last few seasons, such as Claude Lemieux, Theo Fleury and Peter Forsberg, it is always nice to see players return from retirement; it shows they really care about the game. Away from hockey, Laraque released his first book, an autobiography entitled “Georges Laraque: The story of the NHL’s unlikliest tough guy.” He was also named to the Green Party’s Male Deputy Leader position. While it’s not known whether or not he will actually get a NHL deal for next season, it will be interesting to see where he lands.
Would you like to see him back on the Habs?