Thursday, August 20, 2015

Georges Laraque Autograph Card

I almost featured this one last night after he'd started following me on Twitter during the day, but opted to go to bed early instead. And when news broke of former enforcer Dale Purinton getting arrested for burglary and breaking and entering, it was really a cue to write about all-around good guy and idealist Georges Laraque, despite having done so a little over a year ago when I penciled him in as #17 in my Habs Numbers Project.

If you don't recall from my previous post, Laraque was pretty much always honest with his job as an enforcer in the NHL - he didn't like to fight, though he was willing to protect his teammates and act as a deterrent from opponents taking too many liberties on them, and to this day he still feels it's a crucial role on a hockey team.

He even admitted to fearing what could happen in a fight, the injuries he could sustain, and knowing his adversaries felt the same way (which is understandable considering he was the most feared tough guy in the league for a while, despite following a strict code of not fighting unwilling opponents nor starting fights for no reason).

Post-retirement, his work as a pillar in the community has been impressive, from advocating a vegan lifestyle to trying to affect change by running for the Green Party at the federal level to meeting with inner-city kids to volunteering his time in Haiti to advocating for animal rights and overall equality online and in the media.

Honestly, knowing how much he loved the Alberta capital when he played with the Edmonton Oilers and knowing he had a weekly radio show there, I thought he would relocate out West when he hung his skates, but I'm glad he didn't; his voice being heard here is an asset, and everything he says and does is genuine and comes straight from his heart - both when he's right, and wrong.

He has never won a Stanley Cup but went on three very deep runs: Cup Finals with the Oilers (2005-06) and Pittsburgh Penguins (2007-08), and the Conference Finals with the Habs in 2009-10, all built on the strength of good teamwork, good youngsters with veteran leadership to surround the core with, and tremendous goaltending from Dwayne Roloson, Marc-André Fleury and Jaroslav Halak, respectively.

Here he is sporting the Oilers' turn-of-the-millennium blue (then-away) uniform with the Oil Driller shoulder patch, in this card from Upper Deck's 2013-14 Edmonton Oilers Collection (it's card #FI-GL of the Franchise Ink sub-set, featuring a blue-sharpie on-sticker autograph with his Habs jersey number - 17 - tagged at the end):
Injuries may have forced him to retire at a lower level than he and his fans had been accustomed to, but his time with the Oilers will forever be remembered as not only when he was the NHL's top pugilist, but also a decent hockey player, what with a 13-goal season in 2000-01, a career in the pluses in +/- stats, over 100 points in just under 500 games in the Dead Puck Era, a unique closeness to the fans, and tons of moments of tremendous respect for his brethren such as this one:

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