MONTREAL -- To be the champ, you’ve got to beat the champ. His first year with the Canadiens may not have gone as planned, but Georges Laraque still wears the NHL heavyweight belt around his waist.
Having suited up for a mere 33 games in 2008-09, Laraque was able to inflict only so much damage last season. With back problems robbing him of the chance to show what he could really do on a regular basis, the feared enforcer provided all the flashes of his power he could muster last season.
Even hobbled by a wonky back, Laraque was still able to intimidate all comers. Whether it was Milan Lucic avoiding him like the plague or Chris Neil deciding there were better and healthier ways of spending his time than throwing down with Laraque, the Habs’ tough guy’s street cred has clearly never been higher.
When Laraque did manage to find a willing dance partner in 2008-09, he rarely broke a sweat, even smiling at times as he prepared to release the hounds on an opponent.
After opting to avoid having surgery done on the herniated discs in his back, Laraque has been hard at work this summer in the gym, eyeing his return to the heavyweight throne.
Those looking to dismiss Laraque and claim his best days are behind have every reason to. Getting him out of the way means not having to venture into a corner of the rink at the Bell Centre in fear or have his massive meat hooks grab them by the scruff of their necks.
Whether he’s in the gym training UFC style with his buddy Georges St-Pierre or settling into his new Zen way of life as a vegetarian, Laraque is out there, waiting, lurking. Let’s just say the start of a new season has been circled on his calendar for some time now. Those thinking he should just quietly step aside can soon tell him that themselves, if they dare.Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com
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