Montreal Canadiens forward Georges Laraque is outraged by recommendations made by general managers participating in the annual NHL GM meetings in Naples, Florida.
"All of their recommendations are a joke!" Laraque charged after reading the NHL's plans on TSN.ca.
League managers are recommending the existing instigator penalty be called more frequently in an effort to curb fighting. In addition, the GMs will push for stiff punishment for those involved in what the NHL calls "staged fights" - fights that usually erupt immediately following face-offs.
It's that proposed penalty - a 10-minute misconduct - which really angers Laraque.
"Stupidest thing ever!" Laraque told TSN. "I think it's a joke. They might as well take fighting out of the NHL...fighting won't be safer; it will be eliminated because an added 10 minute misconduct is too much."
The referee will determine whether a fight qualifies as "staged", and Laraque insists this rule adjustment will eliminate jobs: "This will take the one-dimensional player out of the NHL because that's who they will say starts a staged fight."
Laraque says NHL enforcers, who are often used to try and change the momentum of a game, will be forced out.
"Why even bother showing up for training camp?," Laraque questioned.
Laraque says he has been told by NHLPA Executive Director Paul Kelly that he will be involved in a discussion panel on fighting to promote a safer environment.
"Bottom line, I don't agree with what they are recommending," Laraque said. "No one in that meeting does it (fights) for a living. Why am I not there, or Boogaard, or a player who this is directly going to impact?".
Kelly responded to Laraque's cutting comments by stating that it's his belief the recommendations made this week in Florida will have to clear through the CBA process before becoming reality.
"Coming out of the lockout, all matters relating to the game, including recommended fighting and hits to the head rules that were discussed at the GM meetings, must ultimately go through the joint NHLPA/NHL Competition Committee. The committee is responsible for making rule recommendations to the NHLPA's Executive Board and the NHL's Board of Governors. The Competition Committee will be meeting in June and our members will have further opportunity to provide their input to the NHLPA's Competition Committee members prior to this meeting,” Kelly told TSN.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly says the league will observe protocol, but supports the manager's platform to make such recommendations.
"We have every intention of fully briefing the Competition Committee on today's deliberations and recommendations by the General Managers, and engaging the members in a thorough and wide-ranging discussion of the issues associated with those recommendations. But at the end of the day, we have existing rules in our Rulebook and the General Managers are fully authorized to provide guidance to our officiating staff as to how those rules have been and should be interpreted and enforced going forward," Daly told TSN.
Georges Laraque says he's aware his reaction to the recommendations is likely to upset league executives: "I'm aware of the criticism I will face for speaking up and being vocal. I'm trying to protect the other guys. I'm at the end of my career, for me it doesn't matter. I'm for safety, but not the elimination of fighting and these recommendations are leading to that."
Laraque said he is disappointed the GMs didn't focus more on helmet regulations and still believes the NHL needs to make wearing helmets in fights mandatory. In early February, Laraque told TSN.ca: "The whole world is watching because someone in our sport has died. The Ontario Hockey League made changes, so what examples are we providing? If we don't adjust, we're a bush league!"