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Georges Laraque Shouldn't Be Sorry in NHL's Hypocritical World

Oct 16, 2009 – 1:30 PM
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Christopher Botta

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Georges Laraque recently appeared in an online commercial for an alcohol-infused energy drink, violating NHL policy. On Tuesday, he apologized for breaking the league rule. He has not stopped apologizing since. He really needs to stop.

The phoniness of our major professional sports leagues is boundless.

Laraque is one of the league's top fighters and a popular player for the storied Montreal Canadiens. The Canadiens play in a hockey palace currently called the Bell Centre, formerly known as the Molson Centre. Back then, you couldn't go anywhere in the rink without a beer logo in sight.

The team was recently sold to the Molson family, which owns Molson Coors. So there's no confusion, Molson Coors does not make tractor equipment, advance technology or save the whales. It makes beer.

The Montreal Canadiens franchise can exist because of a beer company, but one of its players cannot endorse an alcoholic product because the NHL declares it's not the image the league wants to present.

C'mon. Alcohol is everywhere in this league. Teams profit from the sponsorships of adult beverage companies and "pouring rights" in arenas. Beer is as much a part of the hockey brand as Gordie Howe. You play a game and have a beer. You go to a game and have a few beers.

Here's one example of the hockey-and-alcohol culture. There's been a lovely trend in the NHL over the last decade in which teams host "fathers' trips," a nice three or four days when players take their dads on the charter for a pair of road games to see what the NHL life is like. It's a time for bonding. In other words, it's a drinkfest. If you think the dads are playing backgammon while waiting for the games to start ... hey, it's hockey.

To add to the hypocrisy, Laraque's video spot has also sparked some outrage for its depiction of women. "The camera, the eye, is only focusing on certain parts of the body," noted Chantal Isme, whose group fights sexual exploitation, to the Canadian Press. Isme is correct, but the NHL better hope she doesn't surf team websites.

In the PG-13 ad, the Canadiens' left wing takes part in a pick-up game of street hockey against a five woman aggressive forecheck. (He easily stickhandles circles around them, like they were the Maple Leafs).

The ad is lame, cringe-inducing, everything its creators aimed for. As a result, it's a major viral hit. But there isn't anything there you cannot find by logging on to the Dallas Stars website and clicking on "Ice Girls Videos."

The controversy comes at the same time the lovable Laraque was being hailed for becoming an animals' rights activist. He pledged his salary for the commercial to charity.

The Canadiens are not punishing Laraque for his indiscretion. Team spokesman Donald Beauchamp points out that Laraque did not wear a Canadiens jersey in the commercial and there are no references to the franchise. "For us," said Beauchamp, "it is case closed."

The NHL has only acknowledged that Laraque's drink endorsement was in violation of Article 25.A of the CBA, prohibiting players from sponsoring alcoholic beverages. The league says it will not comment on the possibility of a fine for the player.

Laraque made a mistake, but got the NHL's attention. Now the league should put the hypocrisy aside and work with Laraque, not against him.
Filed under: Sports