LARAQUE: NHL STEROID USE WIDESPREAD?

Robin Brownlee
November 06 2011 09:44PM

EdmontonOilers2

Former Edmonton Oiler Georges Laraque doesn't name names, but the retired tough guy says the use of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs was not uncommon during his time in the NHL.

In a book to be released by Viking Canada, The Story of the NHL's Unlikeliest Tough Guy, that is bound to send ripples through the NHL, Laraque, who played parts of 13 seasons with the Oilers, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens, refers to the use of performance-enhancing drugs by NHL players.

What Laraque, 34, who retired after the 2009-10 season and is now deputy leader of the federal Green Party, doesn't divulge in his references to the use of PEDs in his autobiography is who, when and where.

The question now is, will the always quotable Laraque, who filled notepads, hosted a radio show in Edmonton and was a regular off-season guest on Bob Stauffer's popular Total Sports afternoon drive show on TEAM 1260 during his playing days, follow up and provide details?

I'm guessing we'll find out soon enough when Laraque tours in support of his book.

ACCORDING TO GEORGES

"I have to say here that tough guys weren't the only players using steroids in the NHL," said in the book.

"It was true that quite a lot of them did use this drug, but other, more talented players did too. Most of us knew who they were, but not a single player, not even me, would ever think of raising his hand to break the silence and accuse a fellow player."

Laraque, who played 490 regular season games with the Oilers and still lives in Edmonton, says use of steroids and other drugs wasn't limited to the fraternity of players who earned their keep as tough guys.

"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 the Winter Olympics are held.

"In the following season they make a strong comeback; they manage a mysterious return to form."

In The Story of the NHL's Unlikeliest Tough Guy, a wide-ranging look at Laraque's life and career that mentions use of performance-enhancing drugs by unnamed players but doesn't make the issue a focus in the 300-page book  -- he refers to facing opponents jacked up on steroids and other substances.

"Before a game, as I would warm up on the ice, I would always look at the tough guy on the other side," he wrote.

"If his arms were trembling, if his eyes were bulging, I knew for sure he wasn't going to feel any of the punches I would give him."

IGNORING THE ISSUE

While testing for performance-enhancing drugs was included in the CBA reached between the NHL and NHLPA in 2005 -- players can be subjected to three no-notice tests from the start of training camp through the end of the regular season -- Laraque claims there initially was reluctance to recognize a problem.

Laraque says he first approached the NHLPA with concerns shortly after he broke into the NHL with the Oilers during the 1997-98 season.

"They wanted to keep drug testing as a card in their negotiations with the league," he wrote. "Plus, since their main goal was to protect the players, to take action against drugs would have harmed some of those players."

While the NHL and NHLPA has yet to respond to Laraque's contentions about the use of performance-enhancing drugs, there's bound to be plenty of fall-out in coming weeks. I've put a call into Laraque to see if he'd like to fill in some of the blanks and name names.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: SOME CONTEXT

Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail has written a column I think is worth reading on Laraque's decision to mention the use of performance-enhancing drugs in his book and some of the reaction directed his way for doing so. Blair's column can be found here www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/jeff-blair/will-georges-laraques-claims-about-hockey-and-steroids-fall-on-deaf-ears/article2227405/.

At the very least, Blair's column lends some context to the Canadian Press report that I and others have referenced or published, to the issues Laraque has raised and the reaction he's received in recent days. 

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#51 OilLeak
November 06 2011, 04:34PM
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BArmstrong wrote:

PED use in the NHL - yup. But I'm of the opinion that the steroid use is of little concern - for two reasons.

1) Not widely used. Yes, big solid dmen, enforcers, and some power forward types can benefit from them but for the most part, quick, fast mobile athletes don't. Remember when Gags came to camp 10 pounds bulkier - he plays much better learner (see Rod Brind'amour).

2) As Wes Mantooth has suggested - when used correctly, they are of little danger. In fact the health benefits can easily outweigh the negatives. Especially in an aging individual.

The bigger concern should be with the stimulants. These have a far greater negative impact on health.

But hey, I'm with Moneypuck - We're all consenting adults. The athletes consent to the use, and we consent to the performance:)

Edit: I apologize if I put word's in Moneypuck's mouth - that's how I interpreted his comment.

Quick Mobile Athletes don't benefit from PED's? Well I guess we neever heard of any track and field stars testing for banned substances huh? PED's will help muscle density, strength, endurance, recovery, and injury repair. You think Hemsky or Tim Connolly couldn't benefit from HGH?

The advantages over other players are significant.

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#52 BArmstrong
November 06 2011, 04:56PM
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@OilLeak

My comment was directed at Steriods.

HGH? Probably a benefit to most NHLers.

Anabolics? Probably not.

Steroid use in the NFL for example is more prevalent in power positions - linemen, linebackers, running backs. Finesse positions - wide receivers, d-backs - don't benefits as much. And yes, I think injury recovery is an area where use is more widespread.

At the end of the day I'm okay with most of it.

And as far as Hemsky goes? Forget HGH or steroids, a fitness/nutrition program would be a good place to start - we won't be seeing him anytime soon in the ESPN mag:)

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#53 VK63
November 06 2011, 05:59PM
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ColeRoll wrote:

Didn't Iginla lose a whole whack of weight coming out of the lockout (olympic year)?

He lost a bit.... Regehr lost a bunch but the game also changed. The hook, hold , interfere, stand a guy up stuff that allowed guys like Regehr to thrive in 04, became the obstruction rules. The leagues video on what not to do was basically compiled from the flames 04 playoff run. It was legal then... its not now.. so Regehr and a bunch of guys lost weight to add quickness and lateral mobility. Training regimens also changed with the introduction of hot yoga, plyometrics and other techniques rather than football style stack the weight regimens.

One of the few that still utilizes a ton of steel training today is PK Subban... the guys a beast but maintains his agility... tough to do.

The juice and its many manifestations is often used as a tool for quicker repair of muscular injury rather than specifically for performance enhancing and mass building. That would be an area where trainers and other may well include it in a physio based recovery program.. how far that line gets pushed is somewhat subjective but may well cross the boundaries of "the rules".

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#54 Mouse
November 06 2011, 09:19PM
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BArmstrong wrote:

My comment was directed at Steriods.

HGH? Probably a benefit to most NHLers.

Anabolics? Probably not.

Steroid use in the NFL for example is more prevalent in power positions - linemen, linebackers, running backs. Finesse positions - wide receivers, d-backs - don't benefits as much. And yes, I think injury recovery is an area where use is more widespread.

At the end of the day I'm okay with most of it.

And as far as Hemsky goes? Forget HGH or steroids, a fitness/nutrition program would be a good place to start - we won't be seeing him anytime soon in the ESPN mag:)

Anabolics can benefit everybody. There are many different types of Steroids. There are some that add power, strength and speed without the bulky gain. And their side effects are minimal if taken properly. Every athlete can benefit from this. A big mistake is thinking only the big bulky players are using Steroids.

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#55 David S
November 06 2011, 09:58PM
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@Walter Sobchak

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/sport/wrestling/257363/Benoit-friend-Steroids-kill.html

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#56 SmellOfVictory
November 06 2011, 09:59PM
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ColeRoll wrote:

Didn't Iginla lose a whole whack of weight coming out of the lockout (olympic year)?

He lost weight in multiple successive years, and he's specifically addressed it as an attempt to improve his speed for the 'new' game. He also played in the '02 Olympics without a noticeable weight change that season.

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#57 andrewmk20
November 06 2011, 10:10PM
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@Mouse

Thank you mouse. There are people that actually know that steroids are for more than bulky muscle.

Lance Armstrong used PEDs when he was an athlete and he used them for endurance for the tour de france.

People should not be foolish enough to believe that just because someone is not 250lbs does not mean they do not use steroids.

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#58 andrewmk20
November 06 2011, 10:30PM
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@Walter Sobchak

You said you were a health professional but because of this question I seriously doubt you are. Heart disease is the most commonly known side effect but steroids can increase the risk of cancer, liver disease, and high blood pressure. Many people in this world are already predisposed to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc. So why take the risk of significantly increasing the likelihood of dying. I remember a pro bodybuilder who went to my gym and he took HGH and testosterone. He ended up in the hospital due to a heart attack and also had issues with his liver. They told him he had to stop due to the abuse of these drugs.

The big problem is like with many drugs addiction is a risk because they make you feel strong when you use them. Again most people who use them never go through an ethical licensed physician. They buy it from some drug dealer scum bag and then they get a lot of poor uneducated info on the uses and effects of PEDs. It is the same issues that effect any other illegal drugs.

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#59 Bill
November 06 2011, 10:57PM
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I'm not taking the Deputy Leader of the Green Party (?) seriously until there are names and positive tests to back it up.

It would be naive to think that no NHL players are using PED's, but 'widespread'? I don't know...

Seriously, Georges is sounding a lot like Raj Sherman. The average person isn't going to take it seriously unless there's evidence to corroborate the story. Until then.....meh.

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#60 Begie
November 06 2011, 11:40PM
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Why is Gorge talking about steroid now after he retired. Is funny how things work in this world as long as it is good for me, no problem....

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#61 Begie
November 06 2011, 11:45PM
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Gorge please do not be the NHL Kenseco....Just shut your mouth.. Browine you should write somenting about Oilers, when the team is doing well in more than a deca... This column is a trash....

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#62 Walter Sobchak
November 07 2011, 12:37AM
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@David S

I have read the Benoit stories a dozen of times! I suppose I can say concussions also played a part in his break down, or the fact his child suffered from a medical condition that through him over the edge!

get real, to say that steroids were the sole reason he flipped out! thats week and you know it! same with davey boy smith and any other wrestlers who decide to kill themselves.

I guess the 200 plus MLB players who use PED in the next few years are going to decide to kill them selves and there families as well.

come on now your better then that David.

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#63 Walter Sobchak
November 07 2011, 12:51AM
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@andrewmk20

I suggest you look up steroids and there short and long term effects, plus the prescribed medications ( certain steroids) that are used in cancer care. and other forms of care that steroids are used in.

I never said anywhere in my post that I support the abuse of steroids, I simply said that steroids are not the cause of killing people!!!! read the post before you accuse me of saying something I never did!!

I said steroid and other PED's taken responsible can be as safe as most other prescribed medications in fact one could argue taken correctly they could benefit certain people! where did I refute the sort term or long term ABUSE of steroid or PED's??? Your talking out you A$$ and looking for an argument. PS. I really don't care if you think I'm in the medical profession or not.

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#64 David S
November 07 2011, 01:01AM
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Walter Sobchak wrote:

I have read the Benoit stories a dozen of times! I suppose I can say concussions also played a part in his break down, or the fact his child suffered from a medical condition that through him over the edge!

get real, to say that steroids were the sole reason he flipped out! thats week and you know it! same with davey boy smith and any other wrestlers who decide to kill themselves.

I guess the 200 plus MLB players who use PED in the next few years are going to decide to kill them selves and there families as well.

come on now your better then that David.

No, I suppose you're quite right. Self (usually) administration of large doses PED's of questionable quality over prolonged periods of time have absolutely NO quantifiable side-effects. And they're certainly not an underlying contributor to any number of "documented" medical conditions or "known" changes in human psychological behavior as a result of said PED abuse.

Yep. I stand soundly convinced the above-mentioned description is directly and irrefutably comparable to medically monitored and administered steroid use.

You sir, win.

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#65 Quicksilver ballet
November 07 2011, 09:40AM
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I....don't wanna work.....i just want to bang on this keyboard all day.

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#66 A-Mc
November 07 2011, 09:41AM
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Not Necessarily PED related:

I wonder if one day the NHL will have player size restrictions to help reduce the potential for serious injury.

It occurs to me that the 175lb RNH would be destroyed by a solid hit from a guy weighing 245lbs.

Would a 180lb minimum, 220lb maximum be too restrictive?

I'm not usually a fan of restrictions. And in it's own way, the game of hockey is weeding out the big guys anyway with its speed. But for player safety, is there any benefit to imposing physical requirements.

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#67 Archaeologuy
November 07 2011, 09:44AM
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@A-Mc

Good luck getting the PA not to sue the living crap out of the league with that one.

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#68 Jerk Store
November 07 2011, 09:48AM
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@A-Mc

Interesting but not practical. The number of lawsuits against the league would be staggering. Also, there are times a Gretzky or certainly a Gilmour among others would have been ineligible.

Edit: Sorry Arch did not mean to ride on your coat tails. I started typing before seeing your response. As an aside the NBA was considering a development league a few years ago where the max height was 6'4" or something. I don't think it ever got off the ground (no pun intended).

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#69 A-Mc
November 07 2011, 10:12AM
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Would the lawsuits be based on discrimination? or would it be players that are 245 bitching that 220lbs is out of line and that they are no longer able to be employed in the NHL? (i understand that cutting 25 lbs is no easy feat and would take a few seasons to do it properly to maintain competitive status the entire way).

question: For a player to drop from 245 to 220 or even 230, is that too much weight loss to maintain a healthy state? I'll admit that I'm not entirely sure how much a 6'5" athlete SHOULD weigh to be considered Normal. Duby is 6'5" and 210; an extra 10-15lbs for a player should be acceptable, no?

What if the NHL and the NHLPA gave teams a 5 year plan stating that in 5 years, players must not exceed XX pounds, and that they have 5 years to rework their assets to conform to these changes.

ps: I'm not entirely sure that weight is a big deal anyway, I'm more or less exploring the idea; good or bad.

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#70 Evan
November 07 2011, 10:16AM
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It has been about three years since I have cared about any kind of steroid accusation. I find it very hard to care, no matter what the sport. You could tell me that Tiger Woods has been using steroids for his entire golf career and it wouldn't diminish his accomplishments through my lens.

Laraque's comments are not surprising, upsetting, or concerning to me in the least.

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#71 VMR
November 07 2011, 10:27AM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

The rake never gained weight man. No chance it was him. 2006 Olympics was also year he carried Oilers to Cup. That doesn't jive with what Laraque wrote as far as having a down year.

Not so sure about that. He was on the team for that season but the team just snuck into the playoffs. He was a monster in the playoffs. Could he have started juicing up once the Olympics were over and the threat of testing was done? Possible, but the problem of course is that it's all rumour and innuendo without any actual names.

It casts a shadow over everyone who played with and/or against Laraque. There are the stories of Messier and sudafed, Fuhr and cocaine, would it really be a surprise if more Oilers have been (or possibly are) using?

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#72 Max Powers - Team HME Evans
November 07 2011, 10:30AM
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@A-Mc

There's just no way, at least IMHO, that any union would allow restrictions like that to be put into place.

That's why they have the NHLPA.

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#73 Max Powers - Team HME Evans
November 07 2011, 10:34AM
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@VMR

"It casts a shadow over everyone who played with and/or against Laraque. There are the stories of Messier and sudafed, Fuhr and cocaine, would it really be a surprise if more Oilers have been (or possibly are) using?"

These guys are 20 year old millionaires. Not only would it not be a surprise, but chances are a fair amount of them do have some form of substance abuse problems, whether it be steroids, pain killers, cocaine, alcahol etc.

That goes for teams other than the Oilers too.

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#74 A-Mc
November 07 2011, 10:55AM
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A quick stats query of last year shows me that there are 72 players out of 681 that are Above 230lbs or below 180lbs. The Ends of the spectrum are extreme @ 270lbs and 157lbs.

PS: Updated using NHL.com stats instead of an inaccurate program i used earlier off the iNet.

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#77 A-Mc
November 07 2011, 11:09AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Weight restrictions are ever, ever going to happen for what should be obvious reasons. No "but" or "what if they . . ."

Bad idea. Dumb idea. Never-going-to-happen idea.

Why? If it's obvious to you why that is something that is Bad. Dumb. Never-going-to-happen, then please explain it to me.

I'm not saying this is an answer to any issues we have, I'm just exploring the idea. So far, people have only offered the answer of 'no' with out explaining why it would flop.

Please explain yourself.

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#78 Romulus' Apotheosis
November 07 2011, 11:09AM
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A-Mc wrote:

A quick stats query of last year shows me that there are 72 players out of 681 that are Above 230lbs or below 180lbs. The Ends of the spectrum are extreme @ 270lbs and 157lbs.

PS: Updated using NHL.com stats instead of an inaccurate program i used earlier off the iNet.

Whoa... who's 145lbs? that's extreme featherweight territory.

On topic: I see what you are gesturing at but agree with others that it is impractical. Small players need to find their niche, whether is it evasion (RNH) or hitting above their weight (Fleury). NHL competition is so elite that it tends to weed out people like MacIntyre who can't skate, or at least severely limit their ice time.

If we are going to blacklist players it should be performance based, i.e., I'd be happy to have the league decide Avery is such a blight on the sport his presence is no longer acceptable... But a guy like MacIntyre... if he can earn a spot somewhere I don't begrudge him his position, or his size.

Mind you I take it for granted that teams teach a guy like that his "role" and expect him to play it. If he goes after RNH, for example, I expect the League to come down hard (in a radically imperfect analogy see Sutton on Landeskog)

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#79 A-Mc
November 07 2011, 11:12AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Not that it matters, but you're either using the draft-day weights of players (when they're teenagers) or guessing. Chara is listed in the up-to-date Boston notes at 255 pounds. He likely weighs 265.

Ok. I see the 'stats program' i'm using that i found online shows his weight as 230 for 2010-11 season. That number isn't reflected on the Bruins NHL.com page, so obviously the WT stat in this program isn't accurate.

Thanks for pointing this out!

is there a place people go to to get a good database of ACCURATE stats for players/teams? I'm basically looking for something that will allow me to dick around with things in an Excel-like program

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#80 Romulus' Apotheosis
November 07 2011, 11:17AM
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@A-Mc

what's wrong with the numbers NHL teams quote about their own players? That seems as solid a source as any other. Although, they too are neglectful (the other day we discovered the Oiler's "in the system" page is woefully out of date).

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#81 A-Mc
November 07 2011, 11:18AM
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@Romulus' Apotheosis

Paul Byron was listed as 145lbs in this program i was using. It has been pointed out to me that these weights are inaccurate anyway so ignore the 145lbs, i can't trust this DB.

ps: Landeskog isn't a lightweight though, just young; isn't the kid over 200lbs? He's a solid chap.

PSS: i don't necessarily believe that weight limits are/would solve anything. Again, I'm just exploring different ideas to see if they have merit. It's clear that people are against weight limitations imposed on the basis of player safety. Admittedly, weight might be a very minor part of the equation when it comes to players being hurt in a collision. Physics would dictate otherwise, but physics doesn't account for dirty hits (which i would think is the major cause of injury. ie: hitting from behind and Hits to the head).

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#82 A-Mc
November 07 2011, 11:20AM
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Romulus' Apotheosis wrote:

what's wrong with the numbers NHL teams quote about their own players? That seems as solid a source as any other. Although, they too are neglectful (the other day we discovered the Oiler's "in the system" page is woefully out of date).

Ignore my post it appears NHL.com will work for what i want.

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#83 Romulus' Apotheosis
November 07 2011, 11:37AM
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@A-Mc

Glad you sorted something out. Hope your mucky-mucking about is fruitful, or at least fun.

PS. Landeskog. Yea... I knew I would get called on that, hence the "radically imperfect." I had in mind more a mix of attributes that the League clearly values, ie. youth, talent, etc. I just thought that suspension was a bit rough and part of the reason why was because Sutton is a minor figure in hockey (not a Pronger or Chara), who is also huge and Landeskog is clearly a future NHL poster boy (and while not undersized in the least, is considerably smaller than Sutton).

pps. I watched the Buffalo/Ottawa game on Sat. and they mentioned that Gerbe is the shortest player in the NHL (5'5") and he is 178lbs so to be only 145 is crazy to me. That player would need super speed and evasion skills to stay safe I would imagine. By the way, Gerbe pooched his shootout attempt pretty good.

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#84 Rob...
November 07 2011, 12:09PM
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~I hear the latest steroid of choice gives you a long face, puffy lips, and make you think you can beat the trap by skating as fast as you can along the boards into the opponents zone, regardless how many times the move fails.

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#85 Crackenbury
November 07 2011, 02:15PM
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Until someone names names or provides direct evidence of PED's in the NHL it's a non-story. Laraque's quotes to-date do nothing to help in the fight against PED's and I fear he will regret mentioning it if he is not prepared to back it up.

So-called whistle blowers that sound the alarm but are too afraid to say what they know should either keep their mouths shut or open up completely. There is no in-between.

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#86 David S
November 07 2011, 02:26PM
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@Crackenbury

Every abuser of PED's in pro sports is thanking you right now.

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#87 Wax Man Riley
November 07 2011, 11:14PM
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andrewmk20 wrote:

Thank you mouse. There are people that actually know that steroids are for more than bulky muscle.

Lance Armstrong used PEDs when he was an athlete and he used them for endurance for the tour de france.

People should not be foolish enough to believe that just because someone is not 250lbs does not mean they do not use steroids.

I think Armstrong still denies taking PEDs, and has over 500 tests over 20 years to back him up. Please, correct me if I'm wrong.

It has also been proven that Lance Armstrong is a bit of a mutant. That is probably the best term for him. He has a larger heart than most people, and his body is able to use oxygen more efficiently. While most NHL players have a VO2-max score in the 50's(which is amazing, as I'm sure mine is in the teens if I'm lucky), Armstrong's VO2-max before a race is in the LOW 90's. His body also doesn't build up the lactic acid in his muscles as much as most people.

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#88 Crackenbury
November 08 2011, 07:48AM
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David S wrote:

Every abuser of PED's in pro sports is thanking you right now.

Man- up or shut-up. It's a simple concept and one that our entire legal system is based on. It seems to be outdated though. Any wingnut can throw out whatever rumour or innuendo they feel like these days and have no consequences.

Laraque says he knows the abusers, be a man and spit it out. His comments are nothing more than PR to sell his book much like his recent quote how Gretzky was his worst coach ever. He refuses to elaborate on that as well. I used to think Laraque wasn't all that bright, but he sure knows how to self-promote.

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#89 Jeremy
November 10 2011, 11:05AM
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@Wax Man Riley

Of course Armstrong still denies it. How many decorated athletes have actually admitted to it? Even when they're put in court to testify, they still lie about it.

There was rumour of 1 failed Armstrong test which may or may not have happened. I doubt everyone is accusing him just out of jealousy.

The thing is, the PEDs have been at a further stage than the testing for a long time. So how do we know he wasn't passing the tests just because he was using the latest PEDs.

As for Armstrong being proven to be a bit of a mutant, do you not think that is maybe as a result of his years of PED abuse? Sorry but I don't believe a word Armstrong says.

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