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“And when you retire, most of the tough guys aren’t set (for life). You don’t make a lot of money as a fighter, so they’re thinking ‘OK, now what do I do?’ So they go back to drugs and alcohol. There’s no options. Then, there’s the people who say ‘let’s take fighting out of hockey.’ Are you kidding me? Whoever decides to make that rule (no fighting), then you’re really going to have a problem with these guys. If there’s depression when you retire, how bad do you think it’ll be if you take 75 jobs out of the NHL so they can’t even earn a living? You create a bigger problem by trying to fix the problem.”

-Georges Laraque, retired NHL tough guy.  More from Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal.

Filed in: NHL Teams, NHL Talk, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: georges+laraque

Comments

Evilpens's avatar

500,000 + grand in the NHL Isn’t enough to set you up well enough ? tongue wink

Posted by Evilpens on 09/01/11 at 07:23 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

“you take 75 jobs out & now they can’t earn a Living” Get a REAL F’N job like Hockey fans do to

Posted by Evilpens on 09/01/11 at 07:29 PM ET

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George Laraque is really out of touch isn’t he? He is implying there are 75 skilled players that are doomed to a life of anonymity and depression because their slots are being taken by fighters.

Most people at the age of 35 can’t retire on the money they have earned in their lifetimes either. Its a tough job and the pay is equivalent to what guys are willing to do it for.

Posted by hockey1919 from mid-atlantic on 09/01/11 at 07:51 PM ET

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“If there’s depression when you retire, how bad do you think it’ll be if you take 75 jobs out of the NHL so they can’t even earn a living? You create a bigger problem by trying to fix the problem.”

what a stupid thing to say.

Posted by Baller on 09/01/11 at 08:07 PM ET

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This is a dangerous statement from Laraque. He is suggesting that the NHL should allow fighting to be a quasi-welfare program ensuring jobs for players who couldn’t afford life outside the profession. He suggests fighters would be totally incapable of living a more normative existence simply because of what they do as a profession. This is patently false.

Also, the minimum salary for NHL is over a half-million dollars. While players who make a living in the league for just a few years are certainly not “set for life,” it’s unfair to suggest they would be unable to manage their finances without comparable income.

Lastly, when he references the life after hockey for fighters, he says, “…they go back to drugs and alcohol. There’s no options.” This statement is profoundly misguided and reckless. There are options and not every fighter is predetermined to take up a life of addiction subsequent to a career in the NHL.

The tragic deaths this summer are an anomaly in the world of hockey. Let’s mourn for the dead and pray for their families without painting broad strokes about certain “groups” of people. Laraque should think before he speaks.

Posted by Rsambo00 on 09/01/11 at 08:19 PM ET

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Clearly, I mean who the hell does this guy think he is?  Does he think he has some sort of insight into the situation that the rest of us might not have just because he played professional hockey as an enforcer? 

I mean, we read hockey blogs and everything.

Posted by Django on 09/01/11 at 09:31 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

UMMM douchebag, does he or You think that career 4th Line grinders/PKers/Faceoff guys are financially set at 35 Too ? No they go out & get a Job, Either hockey related or out there in the big bad world that everyone else lives in

Posted by Evilpens on 09/01/11 at 09:51 PM ET

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Hey SFB, did you actually read the article or listen to the radio interview?

Posted by Django on 09/01/11 at 09:58 PM ET

awould's avatar

Thanks to his dumb comments, I somehow have less sympathy for them. Wow, almost nothing he said wasn’t stupid.

Posted by awould on 09/01/11 at 10:00 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

If he wasn’t a vegetarian I’d say he made a meatheaded comment.

We’ve got two suicides and a substance abuse/concussion-related death. Regardless of what roles these men played on the ice, it’s pretty clear that the NHL and NHLPA do a pretty good job of looking after their employees’ physical well being, but not such a good job ensuring that the human beings who usually ply their trades for short periods of time and usually retire due to some sort of physical injury are looked after and cared for off the ice.

There is no easy answer here because both mental illnesses, substance abuse issues and crises of identity when changing careers after one abruptly ends…These issues can and do affect anyone and everyone.

Clearly, the NHL, NHLPA and Alumni Association all need to seriously commit themselves to ensuring that their players are informed of their options to seek emotional support, counseling for any addictions or behavioral concerns, and when their careers are over, the “Life After Hockey” program can’t be optional anymore and both vocational training, career placement and educational options must be made available.

It’s called treating players like people as well as athletic machines and ensuring that they know there will be support for them on and off the ice—and that there are no topics too taboo, whether it’s sex, drugs, depression, chronic pain or immune concerns, or even feeling “blue”—and during and after their careers, they will have options and outlets for support….

Even if that means sitting their asses down four times a season to force them to listen to presentations, read pamphlets and take anonymous online surveys.

If the NHL is an elite workplace, it, the NHLPA and the NHL Alumni Association need to give their players elite levels of physiological, psychological, behavioral, educational, vocational and yes, even moral support.

That requires a concerted effort to organize and invest in programs that constitute “benefits” if you’re lucky enough to have to pay a chunk of your wages to get even a semblance of them in the real world.

They aren’t “entitlements”—they’re supposed to be part of the bargain, and the NHL is at least better-equipped to face this issue than the rest of us.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 09/01/11 at 10:33 PM ET

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Laraque’s comments are in response to the idea that these guys are set for life, which obviously they aren’t.  For a guy who maybe has the education of 16 year kid from BFE Manitoba the transition to finding a ‘real’ job isn’t going to be easy, especially when they have a mortgage to pay and family to support and no other job skills or training to really speak of.  Other former players (Nash, Cote, Sopel and Strudwick) have stated that the NHL and NHLPA need to do a better job of helping players with this transition.  The common theme from these ex-players is that they feel they are thrown out on the street after they are done in the league.  Which is why Laraque feels eliminated fighting is going to going to create a bigger problem for those 75 goons, cause then they’re headed right out the door on their asses too without any type of support or viable options.  He also feels that the substance abuse in league, particularly among fighters, exacerbates an already bad situation as they just turn to alcohol/drugs.  Unless Laraque really does believe they have no other option, which would be quite sad.

But, hey F’em if they can’t get a real job.  I don’t know why the league, players association should care (unless they commit suicide obviously).

Posted by Django on 09/01/11 at 10:39 PM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

Laraque’s comments are in response to the idea that these guys are set for life, which obviously they aren’t.

Just for the record, here’s what the three players who died this summer (plus Laraque) made in just their NHL careers.

- Wade Belak: $8,649,800
- Derek Boogaard: $3,600,000
- Rick Rypien: $1,982,500
- Georges Laraque: $10,654,440

Only Laraque and Belak could be said to be “set up for life” – but even Rypien made a lot  of money for a 27-year-old. None of those who died this summer lost their lives because they didn’t make enough money as NHL enforcers. They faced issues that went far beyond money.

Laraque should just STFU until he can talk about something he understands. This issue clearly isn’t one of those things.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 09/02/11 at 02:07 AM ET

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Did you actually read the article?  Do you really think Laraque believes these players killed themselves because they didn’t have enough money, and that’s the biggest problem they face?  Nothing about untreated substance abuse and depression?

Once again his point is that many of these players feel they don’t have a lot of options open to them after they retire and turn to substance abuse.  Wade Belak might have made some money but what about the average fringe NHL fighter/player?

“You have to find solutions for the fighting. Being a professional athlete is an ego job. You think you are invincible. The programs that exist that have doctors and PhD’s ... nobody wants to talk to them. The players should be talking to former players about their issues, have a committee. You get tough guys who talk to each other, they’ll open up. The only reason players enter the substance abuse program of the NHL is the NHL Players Association. It’s either mandatory, and you have no choice or you have so many problems, you’ll lose your paycheque. You know how many people should be in that program every year? It’s unbelievable,” said Laraque.

‘But, we’ve talked about Boogie and Rypien and now Belak. Before that it was Probie (Bob Probert) dying. All fighters. On top of the people who’ve died, we could talk about all the other guys who’ve had trouble with alcohol or drugs but they’re not dead yet,” said Laraque.

Should we complete dismiss this out of hand too?  Laraque may totally wrong, but he did play in the NHL for several seasons as a fighter and has a perspective on the game that none of us have.  You’re so hung up on one sentence that you’re completely ignoring the rest of what he has to say. 

But no, you’re right.  Untreated substance abuse isn’t really a problem and he should STFU, because this clearly isn’t an issue he understands as well as you.

Posted by Django on 09/02/11 at 10:19 AM ET

UMFan's avatar

Setting someone up for life is all relative. An average hockey player career at league minimum is over $2.5 million. One could carve out a respectable middle class life on conservative interest alone. Sure, they won’t have that $2.5 million summer house on the lake, but a comfortable life amongst average joe citizens would be rather easy.

Posted by UMFan from Denver, Colorado on 09/02/11 at 01:35 PM ET

awould's avatar

My main problems with what Laraque said is the comment about how taking away fighting will leave 75 guys out of work and how these guys have no options after hockey other than drugs and booze.

It isn’t like each team will delete a roster spot, it just means 75 different guys will get a job. And maybe the job these 75 guys get won’t be one that makes them feel like shooting heroin, drinking to excess or killing themselves. It certainly will be a job where concussions and their effects will be lessened.

As far as their options after hockey, Laraque’s point about these guys not being set for life isn’t news. Of course they aren’t. If it is a surprise to a 28 year old guy who retires from hockey with $750,000 in the bank that he will need to get a new job or manage every penny, then that guy is a moron. And if he spent money like he’d make $500k/year forever, then he’s a bigger moron. Most of these fighters bounce around from club to club, from the minor leagues to the major leagues and it’s not like they have any reason to believe, other than wishful thinking or naivete, that they’re going to retire to a life of leisure after.

Everything else about how to help these guys transition to life after hockey should be addressed too, but I don’t think Laraque has hit on the first original plan for this since the NHL formed. The NHLPA and NHL are responsible for this and if nothing has been done, the players can blame themselves and each other. It is sad that it takes multiple deaths to force them to think about change, but that seems to be the way they operate. Concussions only became a hot item thanks to Crosby. The truth is, these players live a privileged life in the NHL and they’d rather just keep things as they are. If you have a lot, too much change isn’t welcomed.

If Laraque’s opinion is that the fighting culture isn’t creating the conditions for these guy’s problems, that it is all just a matter of getting help with life after hockey and substance abuse, then I really don’t care about the problem at all. It isn’t unique to hockey, it is a general problem in our society. If that’s the case, then these recent deaths, while tragic, are an anomaly of some specific guys who couldn’t cope. And once one guy commits suicide, it becomes an option for the others and hopefully the cycle will end now.

Personally, I do think the fighting culture contributes to their downfall, and the concussions exacerbate it. So do away with fighting. And get some help for the 75 guys who will have to move on to other things. Nobody owes them a paycheck for being unskilled enough to have to literally fight for a roster spot. And welcome in 75 new players who won’t go through life with multiple concussions.

Posted by awould on 09/02/11 at 01:51 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

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