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Georges Laraque - the enforcer
Published on:Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - 17:23
Georges Laraque has done the unexpected all his life. Growing up in Montreal, he battled racism before becoming a National Hockey League professional in a sport dominated at the time by white players. Comment on this story.
The Laraques were the only black family living in Tracy, a small community outside Montreal. His Haitian parents were taken aback when a young Georges announced he wanted to take up ice hockey - which at the time was a very white and working-class sport. His family supported him, but he couldnt help feeling they would have preferred him to take up soccer.
Georges quickly encountered racism, not just from the fans in the stands, but also from coaches and teammates. He would often cry alone after a game, but kept the pain to himself, not wanting to show weakness.
Aged eight and on the verge of quitting, his sister gave him him a cartoon book featuring Jackie Robinson, the first black Major League Baseball player. Georges realised that he could do for ice hockey what Robinson had done for baseball. He had a role model and a new goal: the National Hockey League.
Once in the big leagues, he was thrust into the role of 'enforcer'. Over his 12-year NHL career he was involved in some 130 fights - which took their toll physical, but not psychologically.
Georges found he was able to detach himself from the violence of the ice rink somewhat. He would joke around with opponents during the face-off, but was never took pride in ice hockey's macho image. As his career grew, he suffered from an increasing unease at what he felt was the promotion of violence.
Then at the height of his career, watching a documentary set in the slaughterhouses of the meat industry turned him into a committed vegan and green activist. He's now Deputy Leader of the Green Party of Canada.