SUN Hockey Pool

Bye-bye, Georges

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:09 AM ET

Tough guy Georges Laraque declared months ago that he disagreed with the idea of NHLPA members taking jobs from other players by signing with European teams during the NHL lockout.

But, with almost 400 of his peers - including 12 of his teammates with the Edmonton Oilers - having taken jobs overseas as the lockout has dragged on, Laraque put opportunity before principle Monday and agreed to terms on a contract with AIK of Stockholm in the Swedish Elite League.

"I still don't agree with it," Laraque said. "But, whether I agree or not, I'm not the most talented player in the NHL and I don't want to lose the whole year of hockey. That's not good for me.

"Some people depend on those jobs, I know, but if I stick by my principles and lose my job because I'm not improving, what about that? Sometimes, you have to do what's best for you."

Laraque, 28, said yesterday he's agreed to join AIK, but only after the NHL season has officially been cancelled.

He said his contract, if activated, will provide for expenses and includes a house and a car.

With the deadline to get a deal done in Sweden expiring Monday, Laraque says he agreed to terms because he didn't want to be the last man standing as other players fill a dwindling number of openings.

"I'm competitive and I want to play for something," Laraque said.

"I didn't think about going anywhere, but with the deadline and stuff, I wanted to have the option of something. I'm not going if the season isn't cancelled, so that's all it is, an option for me."

Laraque has been skating with other locked-out NHLers at local arenas during the work stoppage, but the turnout has diminished as the impasse has continued.

In just the last week, teammates Steve Staios, Ty Conklin, Marc-Andre Bergeron and Marty Reasoner took jobs in Europe.

Reasoner made it 13 Oilers with contracts in Europe when he signed in Austria with the Salzburg Red Bulls yesterday.

And, while the style of game and the big-ice surface in Sweden doesn't seem a match for the skills of the lumbering Laraque, he sees the deal with AIK as an opportunity to improve as a player.

"I don't need to go into a goon league to improve my fighting," Laraque said, referring to overtures he's turned down from the Quebec Senior League, where rival Donald Brashear has been brawling this season. "I need to work at being a better player. It'll be difficult, but skating is skating. It will help me, for sure.

"They knew who I was and they seemed excited about me coming. It's going to be fun to have the expectation that I go out and perform."


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