Few players in NHL history have been so well-liked by their teammates and fans as Georges Laraque. To this day, if you say his name to a former teammate, they will light up with a smile.
Laraque always had his buddies back, and he was an enforcer you just had to respect. Laraque wasn’t the most technically skilled player, and during his career, he only scored 53 goals in 695 games. That’s also why the Edmonton Oilers fans will never forget February 21, 2000.
Georges Laraque was known for his physical player rather than his goal-scoring abilities or soft hands, but that night, against the LA Kings in Skyreach Centre, everything went his way. Laraque gave the Oilers an early lead, and in the second period, he scored again.
Before that game, Laraque had only scored three goals in the season, and he was looking to double it. The Oilers were up 4-3 with just a minute to go as the Kings pulled their goalie, and everybody in the stands realized the opportunity and started chanting Laraque’s name.
The coach, however, wanted to secure the W rather than giving Laraque his hat trick, and Janne Niinimaa managed to make it 5-3. Laraque thought the opportunity had slipped away. The goalie was back on the ice, but with 16 seconds to go, Laraque managed to spin around a defenseman, and with a backhand move, he completed his first and only NHL hat trick.
He started celebrating wildly, and the fans celebrated just as much. And home, watching the game, was Wayne Gretzky. He had retired the season before, with 50 hat tricks to his name.
When Laraque got off the ice, he got a call from The Great One he’d never forget. Wayne Gretzky just called to deliver the perfect chirp.
“Wayne said, ‘You just need 49 to break my record!'”Laraque said to the NHL.com.
“That was awesome, when the Great One calls to say that.”