Former NHL enforcer Georges Laraque agreed to something he now regrets.
In the Game, a Canadian trading card company, is set to release a series of premium hockey cards called Enforcers in commemoration of NHL players past and present who were known to drop the gloves. Collectors will have the opportunity to buy cards featuring NHL tough guys such as Bob Probert, Tiger Williams, Willie Plett, Wendel Clark, Wade Belak, and Laraque.
Billed as "The Toughest Set Ever Created!" and available Jan. 19, the series comes complete with patches of game-worn jerseys, genuine autographs, and a classless design that features splatters of blood. One of the series’ subsets is titled "Bloody Battles." Another highlight? "Instigator Cards."
Laraque had agreed to have his image included in the deck under the impression that the series would honour hockey’s tough guys, but has changed his stance now that he has seen the final blood-splattered design.
"When I talked to them before, they said it was a series to honour the guys that did the toughest job in professional sports,” Laraque said to Sportsnet Tonight’s Jeff Sammut. "A lot of the enforcers, as tough of a job as they did, they’re not as well known. So to have a series that honours them, we thought it was something neat. There was no mention of a ‘blood series’ or having blood sprinkled on the cards on top of our face. I didn’t sign up for that. That’s why, when I saw that, it’s clearly promoting violence. And how can we justify kids looking at cards like that?"
While hindsight suggests that Laraque, and any of the other enforcers who object to the graphics, might have been wise to reserve final approval over the presentation of their image before signing off, it’s great that he’s speaking out against the series now.
Laraque says that he gave the creators of the series an ultimatum: Either remove the blood from the design, or remove me from the set. If not, see you in court.
"It wouldn’t be the end of the world for me to not be part of that series, that’s for sure," he asserts.
In what could be a cruel twist to all of this, though, the controversy surrounding the cards might increase their sales.
Brian Price, the owner of Ontario-based In The Game, explained to CBC that he’s trying to capture an overlooked element of hockey history. The series, he says, brings attention to the players who do the work in the trenches.
“I’m not glorifying violence. I’m paying tribute to the players,” he told CBC.
Price — a fitting surname for man looking to profit from violence — needs a lesson in how to pay tribute. Surely money has already been invested in the design, printing and promotion of the series, but with the release of the cards still a month away, it’s not too late for him to redesign.
If you pay tribute to a man, he usually feels proud, not duped. And his mother is seldom disgusted by a true tribute, as late enforcer Belak’s mother, Lorraine, is by seeing her son’s image bordered by blood drippings.
"This is an image. This is something we’re promoting. By putting blood on (these cards), we’re showing enforcers as animals. What does that say to the public?" Laraque told Sportnet 590 The Fan. "When I hear Wade Belak’s mom crying in an interview and begging to have her son pulled out of this because her son has just passed away this summer, and I hear the owners say, ‘Oh, well, he signed (up) for it. Too bad,’ that makes me sick and it’s unacceptable."