Saturday, January 18, 2014

Georges Laraque Autograph Card

I agreed on a trade with fellow blogger and collector Kyle lately that made me part ways with a number of cards I held dear and that, monetary value-wise, may have been lop-sided, but it enabled me to continue two de facto projects: player collections (which I don't really have per se, at least not in the way others do where they collect every possible card, I just try to get mine signed), as well as my Habs Numbers Project (where I want a collectible item - ideally an  autographed card - of players wearing every Montréal Canadiens jersey number possible), which is actually something I'm getting serious about.

Today, I get to knock #17 off that list with this card of Georges Laraque, from Upper Deck's 2009-10 Be A Player collection (card #S-GL of the Signatures sub-set), where he is seen wearing the team's white (away) uniform with the Centennial shoulder patch:
Other notable wearers of jersey #17s include John LeClair, Craig Ludwig, Rene Bourque (who hasn't returned my TTM request), Rod Langway and Benoît Brunet.

Laraque only played parts of two seasons with the Habs to close off an otherwise distinguished career that saw him win the Memorial Cup, and post an astounding winning fights record (from Hockey Fights, I gathered that from 2002-2010, he posted a 51-10-13 fight record, and I didn't have the patience to sort through the other 67 fights to keep counting).

He recently went through a CAT scan to test how his brain may have been affected by all those fights and was the only enforcer to not have a deteriorated brain. Then again, unlike his many opponents, he didn't get hit in the face all that often.

Throughout his career, despite being perhaps the most-feared enforcer of his generation, Laraque was always honest about his job: he didn't particularly enjoy fighting but was aware it was the only way he'd get a job in the NHL - and a job that he believes is essential to the game nonetheless; he also admitted to experiencing fear before each fight and most games, knowing full well that any punch could be potentially dangerous, but his reasoning was ''if I fear them, then I know they fear me''.

He still managed to score 53 goals in 695 NHL games. Fun fact: despite being one of the toughest guys of his era, he never reached 200 PIMs in a single season and ''only'' has 1126 for his career. Well, plus his 72 in the playoffs - in 57 games.

Since retiring from hockey after the Habs sent him home mid-season then bought out his contract, he has become a politician (candidate for the Green Party on the federal level), done a lot of charity work (including taking many trips to and raising money for Haiti) and continued to be an advocate against animal cruelty, for human rights, and a devout vegan. He's also a commentator and contributor for TVA Sports, which will show up to 22 Habs games per year starting next season.

He may get in trouble at times because he speaks a lot faster than he thinks, but he's always honest and genuine, and seems like a really cool guy.

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