Former Edmonton Oiler Georges Laraque doesn’t name names, but the retired tough guy says the use of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs was not uncommon during his time in the NHL.
In a book to be released by Viking Canada, The Story of the NHL’s Unlikeliest Tough Guy, that is bound to send ripples through the NHL, Laraque, who played parts of 13 seasons with the Oilers, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens, refers to the use of performance-enhancing drugs by NHL players.
What Laraque, 34, who retired after the 2009-10 season and is now deputy leader of the federal Green Party, doesn’t divulge in his references to the use of PEDs in his autobiography is who, when and where.
The question now is, will the always quotable Laraque, who filled notepads, hosted a radio show in Edmonton and was a regular off-season guest on Bob Stauffer’s popular Total Sports afternoon drive show on TEAM 1260 during his playing days, follow up and provide details?
I’m guessing we’ll find out soon enough when Laraque tours in support of his book.
ACCORDING TO GEORGES
“I have to say here that tough guys weren’t the only players using steroids in the NHL,” said in the book.
“It was true that quite a lot of them did use this drug, but other, more talented players did too. Most of us knew who they were, but not a single player, not even me, would ever think of raising his hand to break the silence and accuse a fellow player.”
Laraque, who played 490 regular season games with the Oilers and still lives in Edmonton, says use of steroids and other drugs wasn’t limited to the fraternity of players who earned their keep as tough guys.
“First, you just have to notice how some talented players will experience an efficiency loss as well as a weight loss every four years, those years being the ones the Winter Olympics are held.
“In the following season they make a strong comeback; they manage a mysterious return to form.”
In The Story of the NHL’s Unlikeliest Tough Guy, a wide-ranging look at Laraque’s life and career that mentions use of performance-enhancing drugs by unnamed players but doesn’t make the issue a focus in the 300-page book — he refers to facing opponents jacked up on steroids and other substances.
“Before a game, as I would warm up on the ice, I would always look at the tough guy on the other side,” he wrote.
“If his arms were trembling, if his eyes were bulging, I knew for sure he wasn’t going to feel any of the punches I would give him.”
IGNORING THE ISSUE
While testing for performance-enhancing drugs was included in the CBA reached between the NHL and NHLPA in 2005 — players can be subjected to three no-notice tests from the start of training camp through the end of the regular season — Laraque claims there initially was reluctance to recognize a problem.
Laraque says he first approached the NHLPA with concerns shortly after he broke into the NHL with the Oilers during the 1997-98 season.
“They wanted to keep drug testing as a card in their negotiations with the league,” he wrote. “Plus, since their main goal was to protect the players, to take action against drugs would have harmed some of those players.”
While the NHL and NHLPA has yet to respond to Laraque’s contentions about the use of performance-enhancing drugs, there’s bound to be plenty of fall-out in coming weeks. I’ve put a call into Laraque to see if he’d like to fill in some of the blanks and name names.
UPDATE: SOME CONTEXT
Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail has written a column I think is worth reading on Laraque’s decision to mention the use of performance-enhancing drugs in his book and some of the reaction directed his way for doing so. Blair’s column can be found here www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/jeff-blair/will-georges-laraques-claims-about-hockey-and-steroids-fall-on-deaf-ears/article2227405/.
At the very least, Blair’s column lends some context to the Canadian Press report that I and others have referenced or published, to the issues Laraque has raised and the reaction he’s received in recent days.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.