Thursday, 8 March 2012

TBC: Unlikeliest Tough Guy

HBIC has had the pleasure of reading a lot of books thus far this year, and I'm happy to have had the opportunity to do so. If for no other reason, it's a great way to gain perspective from a different point of view, perhaps one that differs from your own. When it came to the book I just finished, I gained a whole new respect for the man featured in the book. Teebz's Book Club is proud to present Georges Laraque: the Story of the NHL's Unlikeliest Tough Guy, written by Georges Laraque with Pierre Thibeault and published by the Penguin Group. Mr. Laraque's story gives new insight into his life and career, but, more importantly, it gives a new perspective on the man who was considered the toughest guy in the NHL in his era.

From the Penguin website, "Georges Laraque retired from the NHL as a winger for the Montreal Canadiens and the toughest guy in the league. He is now a host for CFRN and deputy leader of the Green Party of Canada. During his NHL career he played for the Edmonton Oilers, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Montreal Canadiens. Georges Laraque was born in Montreal, Quebec."

Georges Laraque literally takes us through his life up to the present in this book. He makes it very clear from the start that he will be honest and frank with his readers in the same way he was honest and frank in his life and his interactions with the media during his playing career. To be honest, the book really succeeds in this regard because it is his honesty that gives real perspective on some of the ordeals Mr. Laraque went through in his career.

From his family life as a child where he was forced to lie to his father to play hockey to receiving his first NHL contract and spending to wildly to moving teams in the NHL, Mr. Laraque's life has been fascinating. You can tell that he loves his family and really loved his time in Edmonton as an Oiler for a multitude of reasons, but through it all he never compromised his beliefs or his principles. Money can corrupt, but it appears that Georges Laraque never forgot who he was or where he came from in Unlikeliest Tough Guy.

In reading Georges Laraque: the Story of the NHL's Unlikeliest Tough Guy, it seems as though the only place that Laraque didn't enjoy playing was in Phoenix. It wasn't his teammates or the sunny days that bothered him the most. Instead, it was the losing and the lack of structure provided by head coach Wayne Gretzky that seemed to really bother Mr. Laraque.

"Maybe he was too kind-hearted to insult us. Maybe he saw something we didn't. But he sure didn't have any special system he wanted us to play. He wasn't a strategist. He wasn't a tactician. He would sometimes just throw the first three players closest to the door on the ice even if there was no centre among them.

"As players, we quickly figured out that if we stayed near the middle of the bench, he would just forget about us. So we ended up more or less running the bench ourselves. We would take turns getting closer to the door, and eventually Wayne would just send us out there."
The one thing I took away from Georges Laraque: the Story of the NHL's Unlikeliest Tough Guy was Georges' love of helping others, especially through charitable organizations. Georges was an annual winner of his teams' awards for his work with charities and in the community, and he was always one of his teams' most popular players during his time in those respective cities because of his selfless giving of his time. His work in Haiti in rebuilding a larger children's hospital than the one that was wiped out is particularly impressive given that Mr. Laraque never had to volunteer to do this sort of work. Rather, he was at the forefront of this effort, researching various charitable organizations to reduce administrative costs to getting the NHL and NHLPA to kick in $100,000 each.

Overall, I was very impressed with Georges Laraque: the Story of the NHL's Unlikeliest Tough Guy. Mr. Laraque's autobiography was interesting and touching, something most people may not expect from a feared pugilist in the NHL. His charitable work is exemplary, and his caring for his family and friends is second-to-none. I expected a harsher tone of the book, especially when it came to the business of the game, but Mr. Laraque presented an honest and subjective look at his life in hockey. For this perspective, Georges Laraque: the Story of the NHL's Unlikeliest Tough Guy certainly deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval. This book is highly recommended for all hockey fans, and 341-page story will keep you glued to the pages!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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