Nice guys don't always finish last

JODY VANCE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 6:55 AM ET

One of the nicest guys in the NHL is, believe it or not, enforcer Georges Laraque.

The newest member of the Pittsburgh Penguins is happy to be back in a hockey crazed city after a rather unrewarding turn with Wayne Gretzky's Phoenix Coyotes.

Georges and I first met years ago when he was a cornerstone in Edmonton -- a time he says he still holds close to his heart. Speaking of heart, I didn't have it to ask what it was like seeing the demise of that beloved franchise in recent months.

Instead, we dove into some of the other hot topics in hockey, like that of his filling the highly publicized role of Sidney Crosby's "policeman." With a little grin crossing his face he said, "Pretty much all I have to do is give a look more than anything -- like, 'I'm comin' for you,' and that's it."

He adds how much this Pittsburgh squad reminds him of the early dynasty years in Edmonton, where he's playing the role of Dave Semenko to a young Wayne Gretzky, yet another comparison for Sid the Kid.

In his trademark French lilt, he said, "We have been watching so many guys taken off in stretchers from dirty or late hits and stick-work, I think we need to get rid of that stuff first ... before we even look at fighting."

With a wry grin he adds, "Take out fighting, next thing you know we will be playing with padded boards -- who wants to watch a ballet on ice? Not hockey fans."

Obviously, Laraque has a vested interest in keeping fisticuffs in the game, after all that's his bread and butter, but to assume he is a "one note" is selling him way short.

GM Ray Shero is quick to deflect praise at the popularity of his deadline deal to bring Laraque to the Penguins, "Georges fit our team because of the character he brings to our room even over what he brings to the ice."

Sometimes nice guys finish first -- and in the case of Georges Laraque he has a much better chance of that in Pittsburgh than in Phoenix or Edmonton these days.

Jody Vance is a sportscaster with Leafs TV. Her columns appear Tuesdays and Thursdays in 24 hours. 


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