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Can you smell what Laraque is cooking?
 
The answer of course is steroids. Even the NHL isn’t immune to the dirty “S” word and in Georges Laraque’s new book he says the drug was a commonplace for years in the NHL. While he doesn’t name names, he does leave a trail of bread crumbs for us to determine who shot JFK, I mean themselves with Roids. Here’s an excerpt from the book:
 
“I can give you some clues here that will help you identify the ones using steroids, if you really feel like it. First, you just have to notice how some talented players will experience an efficiency loss as well as a weight loss every four years, those years being the ones where the Winter Olympics are held. In the following season they make a strong comeback; they manage a mysterious return to form.”
 
So with some clever sleuthing you may be able to decipher who Laraque is pointing to. So we’ll use a couple of different criteria to determine those names. First being players that played with Laraque in those Olympics years, being 1998, 2002, and 2006. We’ll leave out 2010, because even though that was Laraque’s last year in the NHL, he would have never seen the subsequent year of which he alleges is the key. We are also only going to assume players that Laraque played with, assuming that he may have witnessed first hand these players taking the drugs.
 
Here are the 4 different teams that Laraque played for during those times and some potential names. Now there’s no proof that any of these players took steroids, and in no way is this list evidence that they did.  This is merely a list of names that fall into the category of which Laraque is pointing, and they may be potential candidates for steroid use, but should be taken with a severe grain of salt.
 
4. 1998 Edmonton Oilers
 
Laraque’s first year in the NHL was also the first year of their involvement in the Olympics, and while he only played 11 games in 97/98, he would have been exposed to some Olympians like Doug Weight and Boris Mironov. Two names though that fit the criteria are Bill Guerin and Josef Beranek. Guerin had a miserable year in 97/98, a year that he played for the US Olympic team and finished the year with only 29 points, but had a big bounce back year in 98/99 with 64 points. Josef Beranek was actually playing in Europe in 97/98 and played on the Czech Republic team that won the Gold Medal. He signed with the Oilers the next year and had a career year with 49 points.
 
3. 2002 Edmonton Oilers
 
By 2002 Laraque was a regular on the Oilers 4th line, a team that didn’t feature a whole lot of Olympians. For one, Tommy Salo may be a candidate for someone maybe needed some steroids, as he had his best year as a pro in the 2001/02 season with a 2.22 GAA, and .913 SP. After his debacle in the Olympics however of letting in the long shot against Belarus, Salo never regained form in his career. One player that does fit the Laraque code is (gasp) Captain Canuck Ryan Smyth. Smyth had a down year in 01/02 with only 15 goals, but was able to bounce back the following year with 27.
 
2. 2006 Phoenix Coyotes
 
When it comes to motivation for Laraque’s allegations you may look to his time in Phoenix. Even in his book Laraque slams then Coach Wayne Gretzky as being one of the worst that he played for. The team was also an odd assortment of aging veterans who may have all had incentive to dip into some drugs to lengthen their careers. There’s guys like Jeremy Roenick who were well past his prime, but still seemed to hang on for a few more years, and guys like Owen Nolan who was out of hockey and then came back in 06/07 with 40 points. As for candidates for the Laraque code there’s Ed Jovanovski who had just signed as a big free agent. He was selected to the Olympic team but couldn’t due to injury. We do see a pretty big jump in point totals the year following in 07/08 when he went from 29 points to 51. Same goes for Shane Doan who was under scrutiny when he was selected for the Olympic team because a Quebec MP wanted him off the team for an alleged slur against Francophones. Doan also saw his point total take a big rise the following year in 07/08 from 29 points to 51.
 
1. 2006 Pittsburgh Penguins
 
Laraque didn’t last long in Phoenix as he was granted his wish to get traded and was dealt to the Penguins mid season where he would have run across another set of candidates. The first being Sergei Gonchar a main stay on both the Penguin and Russian power play. His point total was 58 points in the Olympic year, and jumped to 67 the following. Another candidate was one that hadn’t quite made it to the NHL in 05/06 but did play in the Olympics: Evgeni Malkin. He broke into the league the next year with a solid 85 points as a rookie.
 
Of course these are just numbers derived from clues that George Laraque has laid. There is no proof (yet) that any of these players have taken illicit drugs, but time may sort out all these clues and perhaps the Laraque code will be brought up again when looking for candidates, and when it does you’ll know where to look to smell what Laraque was cooking.
 
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Georges Laraque, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers

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