Rock Talk: Laraque feels 'blessed'
Monday, December 1, 2008
Read Montreal Canadiens forward Georges Laraque’s blog all season on sportsnet.ca as he gives you an inside look at life in the National Hockey League.
Hi readers, hockey fans, supporters or haters, lol. This will be the first of many blogs that I have agreed to do for sportsnet.ca. I think it’s a great idea and a chance for the fans to get another perspective about the game we all love, and that coming from a player might make it more interesting.
So I will start about my decision to join the Montreal Canadiens.
As many fans know, this summer I was a free agent and I was approached by many teams and had a lot of great discussions. Being a free agent is actually hard because you always want to make sure you make the right decision, and not just with your head, but with your heart. My decision went right down to the wire, but playing for Montréal - where I grew up and where all my family is - was really a no-brainer.
I had said many years ago that I would never play for the Canadiens. At the time I was a rookie and since being a French-Canadian brings you extra pressure in Montréal, I didn't think it would be good for me to ever come here. Believe me, I’ve had many discussions about what I said and many players - without naming any - agreed with me and said they admired my courage for saying so.
I have always said what I thought and have always tried to give a real response and not the typical answer just to stay out of hot water. One of my good friends – Jeremy Roenick - is known for saying exactly what’s on his mind and sometimes gets in trouble for it. People can say whatever they want about him, but he is always entertaining, good for the league, sells the game and plays the game hard.
So to go back to what I was saying about playing in Montréal: I was playing in Edmonton when I made those comments, but over a period of nine years playing there, and doing many radio and TV shows, I got to be really comfortable around media and understanding how they work. So this summer I thought I was ready to make the decision to join the Canadiens and when Bob Gainey contacted my agent, Steve, it was a done deal!
I knew what I was getting into. Considering my role – even though many people think there isn’t a role for tough guys in the new NHL - coming to a team that has not really had a legitimate one since they had a player like Donald Brashear, I knew it was going to be different
In everything you do in life, especially in sports, there will always be people that love you and there will always be people that hate you. That’s life. As long as you understand that you don’t let those things bother you. I don’t read the papers or watch the TV shows or listen to the radio talk shows. What’s the point? In Montreal, a lot of people love to create controversy; you win and there’s still talk on some negative stuff, and you lose and it’s the end of the world. Negative stuff sells papers and increases ratings, so it will always be this way. If you listen and take seriously everything you hear you will go crazy because at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is what the coaches tell you - period.
I have being the subject of many negative stories as I expected, but this is how I look at it: I’m playing a game for a living. I feel fortunate and I feel blessed. I have signed a three-year guaranteed contract and if it doesn’t end up working here, it’ll work somewhere else. All you can do is work hard and not worry about the rest.
However, outside of all this stuff, we do have the best fans in the world in Montreal; 21,000 fans screaming every game and supporting us with sellouts every game. That’s awesome. We truly have real fans that have made the Canadiens a true religion in this city. We all understand the pressure of winning and losing - especially in a Canadian market where all the fans knows their hockey - but when you’re winning Montréal it is the best place to play.
On top of that, it is such an honour to be coming here in the 100-year anniversary of the team and with all the special events that we will all experiencing this year. The Canadiens are the greatest professional team of all time, with the richest tradition. With the banners in the rafters and the alumni players around the room at times, you can’t help it but have shivers when you put on that uniform and step on the ice. Our entire organization is a class act and our owner, Mr. Gillett, is truly a real hockey fan and a wonderful person.
There are a lot of great players in this team and our captain, Saku Koivu, is definitely quite the leader. We feel that we can all accomplish something special this year. We started the year really strong and though we might be struggling a little bit now, I have no doubt that things will come into place. We’re too good a team with way too much character to lose for long.
As for me personally, it’s been frustrating at times because I have been hurt pretty much all year. I missed the entire training camp and I’m still not in a groove, but it will get better and it will come. I’m very happy to be here, love our team, our staff and our fans, and I would again make the decision to play for Montreal in a heartbeat.
In my next blog, I will talk about fighting, about tough guys - our role, the code, and myself, everything I think about.
Trust me; this will be interesting for many. Have a great week!