It was an interesting time for hockey in 2004-05.
The NHL lockout meant players needed to stay fresh somehow, in case a deal was struck and games were to begin on North American ice.
Georges Laraque went to Sweden – and scared plenty of players.
Many players headed overseas to Europe to play professionally to stay sharp. Russia, Sweden, Finland, and the Czech Republic were more of the popular countries for NHL talent, but we even saw NHL pros in Italy and Hungary.
Georges Laraque was among those who tried to stay fresh during the lockout. He joined AIK of the Swedish third division. It’s safe to say Laraque made a huge impact over his 16 games played in Sweden.
A Swedish newspaper interviewed Laraque about his time playing for AIK and the impact he made in Sweden. Laraque was a regular on the scoresheet, notching 16 points in 16 games.
However, as one would expect, it wasn’t Laraque’s scoring that was the biggest factor in his play.
His first game with the club resulted in Laraque breaking the collarbone of an unlucky opponent. The coach, and now General Manager, Anders Gozzi, said it was a clean hit. So, how did an NHL enforcer who primarily racked up the penalty minutes average a point per game?
Well, it’s safe to say the opposition had some fear of Laraque.
“Of course I noticed that the Swedish players were afraid. Everyone were smaller than me and thought, ‘no fucking way’ that I’m heading into the corner with that monster I got plenty of space on the ice.” Laraque told Swedish newspaper Expressen.
“They didn’t want to die”
It was clear he had much respect for what he had done in the NHL. Intimidation was apart of his game as well. During the playoffs, AIK was hoping to enter Sweden’s second division. Laraque went to the other teams’ locker room and put a little fear into their opponents.
“I stood at the center of the locker room and stared them all down. Everyone was looking down at the floor, no one looked me in the eyes. On the ice no one came near me. They didn’t want to die for trying to stop AIK.”
It’s clear that the message was sent, as head coach Per Ljusterang had this to say about the incident:
“We were all in shock, obviously, and wondered what the hell he was doing here. We had a couple of big players on our team but they looked like kids next to him. During the game, one of our players got one hell of a tackle from Laraque. Our player came back to the bench with blood pouring down from underneath the helmet. I asked him how he was, and the only thing he said was ‘I have no idea.’
Returned to the NHL
Enforcers may be a dying breed in today’s NHL, but there may be a spot for the tough guys in Europe, especially if they are going to be impactful like Laraque!
I’m sure the opposition of Laraque were quite happy when it was announced the 2005-06 season would take place.