You had to figure something was amiss with Georges Laraque when he stopped bench-pressing Volkswagens and ingesting livestock in favor of yoga and veganism, the latter two of which are not time-honored pursuits for the traditional hockey enforcer. Try to imagine John Ferguson tucking into a broadbean salad or Tie Domi in the lotus position with his feet behind his ears, and you get the idea.
When the Canadiens signed Laraque in the summer of 2008, it was a good fit. They were (and still are) an undersized team that needed (and still needs) a physical deterrent. At 1.5 million dollars a year over three years, Laraque was paid handsomely to fill that role, but his insistence on adhering to the "enforcer's code" by only fighting in his own weight class undermined the thinking that went into signing him. As general manager Bob Gainey rightly noted in announcing that Laraque's contract was being bought out, the TEAM code trumps whatever understanding might exist within the brotherhood of ham-fisted heavyweights. When Sean Avery or Steve Ott needed to be punched in the mouth, it's Laraque who should have been doing the punching, not Josh Gorges or Tomas Plekanec.
And despite the seeming consensus that he's the NHL's most feared pugilist, it's not as if Laraque acquitted himself with any great distinction in the relative handful of fights he got into as a member of the Canadiens. The encounter I remember best in his year-and-a-half in Montreal is a dance with the Islanders' Mitch Fritz - a 6 foot, 8 inch behemoth who tossed the 245 pound Laraque around like a rag doll.
Laraque probably regrets taking the low road by calling Gainey classless for unloading BGL at a time when he's preoccupied with the disaster in Haiti, where Laraque has roots and relatives who are still unaccounted for after last week's devastating earthquake. Say what you will about Gainey as a general manager, but as a human being, his integrity is beyond reproach, and having suffered through the untimely losses of both his wife and daughter, Gainey more than most is sensitive to personal tragedy. If anything, Gainey has given Laraque the opportunity to make a difference in Haiti by granting him the availability and resources to put his time and his money where his mouth is.