Crosby lauds big Georges

JOHN SHORT

, Last Updated: 8:28 AM ET

Those positive sounds coming out of Pittsburgh make a guy wonder if it's a new case of same-old, same-old for Georges Laraque.

This time, the words are coming from Sid Crosby, whose words count for a great deal.

He calls Laraque a great guy in the room, a valuable security blanket and a wise addition to the team.

SIMILAR REMARKS

Similar things were said when he first arrived in Edmonton and Phoenix -remember?

Laraque's friends have fingers crossed that this time, at last, the former Oiler will live up to his billing as a good-natured guy, and capable player, who stands up for teammates when the going gets tough.

YOUNG FAN

I'm reminded of the time in the press box when a young fan grew rapturous about Laraque's ability to keep the puck in the opposition zone, shrugging off defenders who tried to take the puck from him.

"Yeah, that's great," said a former coach. "But when does he start to do something with the other 190 feet (of the ice surface)?"

Now 31, no longer just a friendly kid, Laraque is on the edge of becoming a journeyman, nothing more than a hired gun.

Time is running out for him to make wise use of the size and strength that never was as valuable as it should have been.

LOOKING FOR TROY

Believe it or not, that James Cermak-Ryan Henney bout for the Canadian cruiserweight title, coming up on April 13, may turn out to be a big deal.

Glen Carriere, who speaks for Henney, and former Canadian heavyweight champ Ken Lakusta, who's paid by Bruce Saville and Don Metz to manage Cermak, keeps insisting that current Commonwealth champ Troy Ross is on their radar screen.

Fight fans should hope so. Such a bout would draw much better in Edmonton than anywhere else.

Ross has a record of 15 wins and one loss.

Considered a brilliant amateur until he suffered a one-punch knockout defeat in the Olympics, he is rated 31st in the world at his weight.

BoxRec, an internet site with a valid reputation for fairness and accuracy, ranks Cermak (11-1) as No. 48 and Henney (6-2) as No. 66.

That really isn't bad considering more than 700 boxers are listed in the cruiserweight class.

It's clear from the numbers that any high-profile win would put them within reach of the massive dollars that are tied to network or pay-per-view television shows.

The Ross camp says beating Cermak or Henney is meaningless at this point.

They need to be convinced the reward is worth the risk.

Cermak's power and Henney's durability make an upset distinctly possible against any other Canadian - it would be devastating for Ross, of course - but the arrogant Ontario guys are certain to be watching with interest.

BUSY BESSE

Poor Barry Besse.

He has to watch Steve Nash play basketball on a regular basis, he has to worry about the future of Phoenix Coyotes general manager Mike Barnett and he also has to prepare for a Super Bowl game early next year.

What makes it interesting is Besse's background.

He's a Wetaskiwin kid who has spent the last several years working in Texas and Arizona radio circles.

This area is still home for him in many ways, he said last week in an e-mail from Phoenix, lamenting the passing of former Eskimo great Bill Stevenson.

John Farlinger and other former Eskimos made a great effort not to lift their profile too high.

They are attempting to help retired teammates and other ex-CFLers who fall on hard times after retirement.

Stevenson was one of them.

"We aren't looking for recognition," Farlie has said many times. "It's important to help guys who need it, that's all."

Enough said.

CLASSIC MATCHUP, MAYBE

It has been tough for the Camrose Kodiaks to get past the Grande Prairie Storm on the way to the AJHL final series.

If they make it, the clash between Camrose and the Fort Saskatchewan Traders figures to be a terrific Junior A playoff clash.

One that could live in memory.


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