Blog Entry

Laraque wants action from NHL, NHLPA

Posted on: September 1, 2011 11:12 am
Edited on: September 1, 2011 11:18 am
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By: Adam Gretz


Georges Laraque spent 12 seasons in the NHL with one specific role: fight. He appeared on TSN Radio on Wednesday afternoon and spoke about how much he hated that role and hated promoting violence, but did it because it was his job. Following the death of Wade Belak later that day, he spoke to the Toronto Sun and called for the NHL and NHLPA to establish some sort of counseling for fighters.

Said Laraque: "Listen, they have to step up. Now more than ever, people have to realize that the job that we did is a really stressful job. Mentally, it’s one of the hardest things. There’s so many guys that have demons and problems with that. We have to do something.

“This, as sad as an incident that it is, is tainting the image of the NHL. If we don’t do something about it, it’s going to be bad. It’s not going to be safe anymore. It’s unbelievable.”

The easy connection here is to automatically associate the three recent NHL deaths (Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Belak) with fighting because all three shared the same role on the ice. We still don't know what impact their role had on their untimely deaths (or if their role on the ice was a symptom of an underlying issue that already existed long before they were in the NHL). This isn't just about fighters or fighting. Both sides (the pro-fighting side and the anti-fighting side) have their own agenda on the subject and it does nothing but clutter everything up with noise at this point.

The issue is why players -- all players, not just fighters -- can't get (or aren't getting) the help they desperately need. Anything that involves any sort of anxiety, depression or therapy still has plenty of stigma attached to it in society in general (and it shouldn't). But it has to be even worse in sports, an industry where everything happens (good and bad) in the public eye.

I've never had depression, so I can't speak as to what it's like, and I certainly don't work under the same spotlight professional athletes do, but I have had my own anxiety issues (OCD tendancies) since late high school/early college. Once I realized it was happening (like, for example, having to turn the car around, drive back home and re-check the same locks that I had systematically checked before, or making sure the stove was still turned off or the toaster was still unplugged) it took me a while to finally admit it and talk about it. I'm not going to lie and say that it was easy to start telling people about it -- because it wasn't -- but finally doing so turned out to be a huge step in facing it and working to overcome it.

It's nothing to hide from or be embarrassed about. Anxiety and depression issues are more common than most people realize, and often times go unnoticed or unreported. Why wouldn't that happen in sports, too? You're dealing with an environment where any potential flaw has the possibility of being used against you by an opponent, a drunk heckler behind the penalty box or, hell, even a potential employer. How difficult would it be for a person in an industry like professional sports where the pressure is immense and the spotlight is constantly on you? And what about a player that's sitting in a pre-draft meeting getting grilled by an executive? Is there a fear that if something like that is revealed it will hurt his chances of being selected or given a contract?

Following the death of Rypien, Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis spoke about how he and the Canucks organization were going to continue Rypien's fight against depression. It's a worthy fight that demands more attention than it's currently getting, in society, in sports ... everywhere. Here's hoping he and the Canucks (and the NHL and NHLPA) are not only successful at improving the way these situations are handled, but also changing the culture so that players with a problem are more comfortable and willing to seek out the help they need.

A friend of mine that works in the psychology field (you can check out his website, Psychotherapy Brown Bag, by clicking right here) asked me to include the national suicide prevention lifeline if you or anyone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide. Please call 1-800-273-TALK for free, anonymous help that is available 24/7.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl and @agretz on Twitter.



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Comments
kkjyywlpo
Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 15, 2011 11:24 pm
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Since: Oct 7, 2011
Posted on: October 19, 2011 3:19 pm
 

Laraque wants action from NHL, NHLPA

Have you ever actually actually regarded as about which feature a tad bit in extra of just your piece of writing subject material? I signify, that which you say is important and basically every little thing.



Since: Sep 7, 2011
Posted on: September 7, 2011 1:19 pm
 

Laraque wants action from NHL, NHLPA

im telling you. Ativan and group therapy would do wonders for these guys




Since: Oct 8, 2010
Posted on: September 6, 2011 12:22 pm
 

Laraque wants action from NHL, NHLPA

The recent deaths are alarming indeed. But isn't ironic that Laraque now says "how much he hated that role and hated promoting violence, but did it because it was his job". Seriously Georges? He sure seemed to enjoy the mahem he created at the time.  I don't recall reading or hearing anything at the time that he was being "forced" to fight. Rubbish. Very sorry that Boogard, Rypien and Belak are gone. But I don't buy Laraque's self serving explanation at all.



Since: Nov 26, 2006
Posted on: September 4, 2011 5:53 pm
 

Laraque wants action from NHL, NHLPA

Soon fighting will banned in the NHL, and the knee-jerk reaction of the bleeding hearts will construct it's headstone.

spoke about how much he hated that role and hated promoting violence, but did it because it was his job


These are grown men, no one held them down and made them do anything. They knew what they were doing, is it everyone else's fault their morals/values had a price?





Since: Jun 25, 2009
Posted on: September 2, 2011 9:56 am
 

Laraque wants action from NHL, NHLPA

how long before we start connecting the head trauma based problems to power forwards like Rick Tochet and Keith Primau or Eric Lindros? The guys who stood in front of the net and took a pounding to make the play.  Or how bout the chippy little guys that played with an edge and didn't back down like Bobby Clarke and Theoren Fleury?  We have seen drug and alcohol issues from these type players in the past.  Often times drugs and alcohol are a shot at self medicating to escape more serious mental health type issues. 

I agree 100 percent. I think as time goes on we are going to start hearing from a lot more players and problems they've had because of their days in the NHL.  The only problem with that is players could go overboard as well and blame all of their problems on the NHL when in reality in some cases might simply be looking for some extra cash.  And yes, I believe that in almost all cases people addicted to drugs and alcohol are self medicating to help forget some serious problems... 

I don't have a solution but I do know with all the money made chewing these men up and spitting them out there should be a lot more money spent to help them before it gets to this point and more spent on research to prevent it from happening.

I agree with you there as well, except for one thing.  I don't believe professional sports leagues should be 100 percent responsible for taking care of players post retirement.  I believe that yes, they should contribute but the unions in these leagues need to get involved as well.  There is no reason on this earth why players in sports leagues making anywhere from let's say 400 thousand dollars all the way to 20 million dollars per year don't have their own fund going to protect their own future.   It's time these unions gat a lot more involved and instead of just collecting union dues they start taking care of their membership, counselling them and doing more to protect them. 



Since: Sep 11, 2007
Posted on: September 1, 2011 8:41 pm
 

Laraque wants action from NHL, NHLPA

Bob and red as usual you guys have good takes on this but lets take these things further... how long before we start connecting the head trauma based problems to power forwards like Rick Tochet and Keith Primau or Eric Lindros? The guys who stood in front of the net and took a pounding to make the play.  Or how bout the chippy little guys that played with an edge and didn't back down like Bobby Clarke and Theoren Fleury?  We have seen drug and alcohol issues from these type players in the past.  Often times drugs and alcohol are a shot at self medicating to escape more serious mental health type issues.  He have seen it over and over from current and former NFL players and mostly from offensive and defensive linemen and linebackers, the guys who take and give the most hits.  RIP Mike Webster and John Matuszak.  I don't have a solution but I do know with all the money made chewing these men up and spitting them out there should be a lot more money spent to help them before it gets to this point and more spent on research to prevent it from happening.



Since: Aug 2, 2011
Posted on: September 1, 2011 8:33 pm
 

Laraque wants action from NHL, NHLPA

Too right 3 deaths in less than 12months says something is amiss. Lets hope that the victims' families come and put this point across. long time coming in my humble opinion.



Since: Jun 25, 2009
Posted on: September 1, 2011 4:58 pm
 

Laraque wants action from NHL, NHLPA

I hope the players start speaking up about their problems more so that everybody has a better chance at preventing some of these tradjedies.   Tough to stay focused on enjoying hockey if players keep dying.    Maybe some good will come out of this and players will look out for their fellow players a little better when they start showing some issues with demons or whatever.   

Based on some things I've seen I can tell you unless the person seeks help on their own it's pretty tough spotting it from the outside.  My best friend for a very long time suffered through depression many many years ago, we spent a ton of time together and I had absolutely no clue how serious it was.  I found out a month after he very seriously considered killing himself, fortunately for everybody involved he didn't follow through with it.   Coincidentally when I was 16 and 17 years old I had 2 neighbours not much older that killed themselves within a 6 month period.  Once again, we had absolutely no clue at all they had any problems whatsoever. 

I'm not saying there isn't a solution, I'm just saying it's a lot tougher then people think it is to solve this problem.  The only thing the NHL can do is have programs in place that allow these players access to help wherever and whenever they need it.  Maybe there is one more thing the NHL can do actually.  Maybe they can help retired NHL players sorta re-integrate into the normal world.  Maybe the NHL can help these players prepare for life after hockey.  I don't know, maybe have x amount of positions available as a league for former players that are looking to keep busy.  I think half the problem might be these players don't know what to do with themselves after a tough career in the NHL.  Yeah, most will have more money then a lot of us on these boards but it's not all about money.  

If as a society we are willing to help people that just got out of jail for committing crimes find something productive to do to keep them off the streets, why couldn't the NHL and NHLPA do something similar for ex NHL players?  



Since: Oct 1, 2007
Posted on: September 1, 2011 3:10 pm
 

Laraque wants action from NHL, NHLPA

Amen Bob--i don't usually agree with you--but I have to say that you're 100% right.  Well-written article and hopefully with increased effort and research, etc--the NHL (along with all other sports/leagues) can start getting at risk athletes the help they need before another way-too-young death occurs.  RIP-Belak


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