When hockey players decide to hang up their skates, their desire to stay connected to the sport they played and were so very passionate about since childhood, is still as strong as ever before. Some end up working directly with their respective teams, while some decide to work on the other side of the microphone as TV or radio analysts. Many Habs alums now cover the Canadiens in one way or another, and we caught up with a few of them to learn more about their transition to the media. This week we have the host at 91.9 Sport, Georges Laraque.
What motivated you to make the transition into the media world? Was it you or the network that made the first move?
GEORGES LARAQUE: I first started doing radio in Edmonton back when I was still playing with the Oilers. In the beginning I had one music radio show and another one where I talked to couples about their relationships, which was called ‘Summer Loving.’ After I was released by the Canadiens a few years ago, TVA Sports offered me the opportunity to join them for their debut season. They were interested in me because of my experience on the radio and since I had also participated in some documentary features. After two years at TVA Sports, I left the television world and started concentrating on radio here at 91.9 Sport. I’ve always had a passion for radio because I am not afraid to speak my mind. I’m a flamboyant guy who loves to entertain people. It is one thing to be able to talk, but you also have to keep your audience entertained.
What was your perception of hockey journalists when you played? Has it changed now that you’re on the other side?
GL: When I was a player, I understood that engaging with the journalists would help open doors if you eventually wanted to work in media on day. The more you make yourself available to the media, the more they will engage with you. As the saying goes; speak evil, speak nice, but talk. (?) I live by that notion. If you want to one day work in the media or for any specific company really, you have to let people get to know you. If a journalist criticizes you in sports, you can’t take it too seriously. It does not define who you are as a human being. For example, my final years with the Canadiens were not the best of my career. But once I announced my retirement, I received requests from everywhere in the media. I had my choice of where I wanted to go. My post-career path was already carved out before it even started.
Analyzing the performance of your former team must feel a bit weird, right? Is it difficult to remain impartial?
GL: Oh not at all. I like to analyze the Canadiens and I always try to distance myself from the constant scrutiny coming from every different direction in Montreal. I often hear the same you the fans do. After the games in Montreal, it is often the same players being interviewed by journalists who always repeat the same questions. For my part, I have my own opinions. I do not base my point of view off of what I read in the newspaper. I try to get out of that niche and stand out from others. That’s why I try to add in an element of humor. After all, we are only talking about hockey.
Knowing that you are involved in a multitude of other projects, after you hung up your skates, how important was it for you to remain in the world of hockey?
GL: I do this job because I love it. It wasn’t just about staying in hockey that was important for me. The important thing for me was to demonstrate to others that I was able to excel in other disciplines. When you’ve been playing hockey all your life, and become a commentator after that, what are you providing to society? You want to show people that you have a brain. In my case, I am also an entrepreneur. I have three restaurants, I have health products, I am a public speaker and more. I might be a former fighter but I also have a good head on my shoulders and have accomplished much in other areas.
In your opinion, do former athletes make good analysts?
GL: Yes. But there are also excellent analysts that have never played hockey. It goes both ways.
During your career, which city’s journalists did you like the most or hate the most?
GL: I personally never had any problems with anyone in the media. In Montreal, I didn’t mind the attention. I actually liked it because there was always non-stop action. When PR asked me to talk to the media, I was always happy to do it. I always made sure that I took the time to make sure they had material to work with. It got to the point where I was offered a break from the media (laughs). I found it was kind of flat in Arizona because there were only one or two guys covering the team. Hockey was far from their priority.
What's the most embarrassing question that you were asked as a player?
GL: I will not reveal where it came from exactly, but it was from a journalist in Montreal. Back when I was playing for the Oilers, we lost in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals against Carolina. After Game 7’s loss we were just demoralized. There were a few Montreal media members covering the series and they came to see me. One of them asked me, “How does it feel? I honestly found myself wondering if he was being serious. This is the only time that I wanted to hit a journalist (Laughs). That’s the stupidest question I’ve ever been asked in my entire life. I hope he realizes that by reading this.
Interview conducted by Hugo Fontaine.
On the other side of the microphone with... Jose Theodore
On the other side of the microphone with ... Mathieu Darche
The other side of the mic with… Sergio Momesso
The other side of the mic with… Chris Nilan