Friday, July 4, 2008

Hard Hitting, Soft Hearted

The first time I saw Georges Laraque on the ice, I didn’t know what to think. Here was a player who was not afraid of anything, not afraid to muscle his way through throngs of enemy players, either racing to the aid of a teammate or chasing down the puck.
I thought, “Wow, this is one tough guy.”

My husband was not so impressed. “Oh, that’s Georges Laraque. He’s a goon.” He paused, then relented. “He’s probably about the best fighter in the league.”

I was a little taken aback at his blasé tone. “Best fighter in the league? What a way to be known.”
My husband laughed. “Don’t knock it,” he said. “There’s a lot of respect that comes with that title.”

“Along with a few broken bones,” I shot back.

He shrugged, as if to say that it comes with the territory.

Georges Laraque joined my favorite team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. He was still tough. Still barreled his way through the enemy line as though they were bowling pins and he was a human cannonball bent on making a strike. Then, something else happened. The newspapers started writing about him, and I started learning about the heart that beats underneath that tough exterior.

I read about Georges, driving from Calgary to Edmonton to fulfill a dying boy’s final wish: to meet his hero. It didn’t matter that he had a game to rest up for. This boy wanted to meet him, and by golly, he was going to meet him.

I read about Georges volunteering to fly to Tanzania to take part in a program for children who have been orphaned by AIDS or living in refugee camps. His only regret: that he couldn’t bring any of the boys and girls home with him.

I read about Georges sponsoring a hockey camp at a community center in Pittsburgh. I saw video of him running drills, teaching kids how to hold hockey sticks, signing t-shirts, running around with them like a big, overgrown kid himself.

I read about Georges giving his cell phone number to anyone who needs a helping hand. About how available he is to lend a hand, deliver food for the needy, help children buy school supplies and winter coats.

And my admiration grew.

Yes, I liked his style on the ice. He’s protective and he never backs down from a fight. But my respect stems from his countless acts of giving off the ice, most of them performed without a camera recording his every good deed. He’d probably even like it if his deeds went unnoticed, because he doesn’t perform them for glory. He performs them to feed his soul.

This week, the Penguins dealt Georges Laraque to the Montreal Canadiens.

I will miss his powerful stride up the ice to enforce hockey law. I will miss his deep laugh as an interviewer asks him some “interesting” questions. But most of all, I will miss his great, big beautiful heart, which I have no doubt he won’t waste any time sharing, as soon as he finds his bearings in Montreal.

Bon Chance, Georges. Montreal has received a tremendous gift.


  1. hey, thanks for the add to your favorite blogs.
    I returned the favor over at E.T.E.
    Look forward to hearing more from you in the future, and thanks again.


  2. I agree that TB South would fit the Lightning pretty well at this point. It'll be interesting to see how the former Pens perform in the deep South, in particularly if Bugsy can build off of his impressive performance last season.

    no problem about the add, i always like reading, as you say, "different" writers' articles. If everyone just regurgitated the news, blogging would be a pretty boring pass-time.
    Keep up the good work!

  3. I love reading about people who give back to their community.I think it's great when athletes and actors give back to their fans. When they do so in a down to earth way, all the better. I think it shows that they get where their paychecks truly come from--the pockets of we the fans.

    And that yoga pic is great!

  4. Hi, actually he was not dealt... he signed in Montreal as a free agent. He seriously considered signing in Edmonton, but wanted to go to Montreal to play in front of his mom.

  5. Thanks, G-Dog! I'll correct the story!