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The Globe and Mail

Former NHL tough guy takes a pass on life in the fast lane

Georges Laraque traded in his Escalade for a Lexus hybrid SUV.

Christinne Muschi/christinne muschi The Globe and Mail

Georges Laraque


Retired NHL player, author, deputy leader of the Green Party of Canada





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Notable achievements

  • Played for the Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Phoenix Coyotes and Montreal Canadiens during a 14-year NHL career that ended in 2010
  • Campaigns for World Vision to help Haitian reconstruction and relief efforts and is a spokesman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)


  • Book tour to promote Georges Laraque: The Story of the NHL’s Unlikeliest Tough Guy
  • Participating in relay run from Montreal to New York City from May 31-June 3, a fundraiser for Foundation Esprit De Corps

Once one of the toughest enforcers in the National Hockey League, Georges Laraque hung up his skates last year to jump into the political ring.

Today, Laraque – "Big Georges" to his fans – is the deputy leader of the Green Party of Canada and fittingly, he drives green cars: a 2010 Lexus RX450h at home in Edmonton – and a 2009 Ford Escape hybrid (a loaner from a local used dealership) when he's at work in Quebec.

Why did you buy a Lexus RX450h?

I traded in my Escalade and went to Lexus. I wanted something smaller that was a hybrid. I heard they were good on the road and I wanted something big for my kids. My kids are in Edmonton with their mom. I wanted something safe and smooth for when I drive with them. With all the ratings I read, the Lexus was the best of all the hybrids.

Do you know how the hybrid system works?

Yeah. The hybrid system in the Lexus is better because it stays on the battery at a higher speed and the Ford Escape is not as good on gas.

You're a vegan and you support PETA – doesn't the Lexus have leather seats?

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The Ford Escape is 100 per cent no leather. Unfortunately, my Lexus has leather, but I didn't want leather. When I ordered it I thought I could get it with no leather. What they did is was give [me]a phone number of somebody who could take it off. I told them it's not what I wanted. I wanted it to come that way. But they gave me the phone number of a guy, but it's too late. It's worse if I rip it off. It doesn't matter. The damage is already done.

What does a Lexus RX450h say about you?

It says I'm conscious about the environment. I can get whatever car I want. In Quebec, a lot of people will take small cars because that's what they can afford. If I wanted, I could drive a big Hummer, but to be conscious about the environment I just want to drive something small that limits my power and fuel economy.

What was your first car?

The first car I ever bought was a 1986 Nissan Sentra. I paid $1,500 for it. It was old and rusted. It was brown and every time I put gas in it I had to put oil in. Everywhere I went people would know because there would be streams of oil all over the place. But that car for me was like a Ferrari. It was the best thing I ever had. I loved that car so much. Even though it was rusted all over the place I would wash it all the time. I was so happy. It was my first car and you never forget it.

What else have you owned?

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When I was younger I had all the sports cars. I had a Porsche, a Mustang, a Corvette, a Z8, a M5, an AMG Mercedes, a Ferrari.

Remember when Dany Heatley got into that car accident that killed Dan Snyder? After that, I stopped and I never drove a sports car again. I was driving like that – I was an idiot on the road. When I saw that, I figured one day I was going to kill somebody or kill myself and I stopped driving a sports car. I look at that tragedy and even though it didn't happen to me, it could have been me. It's better to prevent than be sorry. It really opened my eyes. So, I stayed with trucks. I drove big trucks like the Escalade. But it was really bad on gas.

Once I became Green Party deputy leader, people came up to me while I was driving, 'Georges, what are you doing? You shouldn't drive those big trucks.' At that point I sold my Escalade and I went with a Lexus hybrid and a Ford Escape hybrid.

What was your favourite and least favourite car?

My favourite car was the BMW M5. It had 400 horsepower – it was one of the fastest cars. Because it was a four-door, nobody really knew that it was that fast. I would race all the time with it. I was beating people all the time with it and they didn't expect it. You see a M3 two-door coming you expect it to be fast when you race. I had four doors and lots of room in the trunk to put my hockey bags and everything. It was the most practical car I had.

The BMW Z8, for example, you couldn't drive it in the winter. You had to be careful where you parked. But the M5 you could go anywhere. It was a hardtop. It didn't matter if it rained – nothing mattered. It was practical and I had a lot of races with it. I used to drive 220 [km/h]all the time with it. See how unreasonable I was?

Did you ever get caught for speeding?

Radar, the laser blocker, the shield for the license plate – I had everything.

I had all these things you could cheat to not get under the radar. That's what I did. I was younger – I was stupid. But everybody that has sports cars, that's what you do – because if you get caught doing 300 you go to jail. I got really lucky and thank God I grew up. Thank God nothing ever happened.

I bought an Agusta motorcycle once. The day I bought it I returned it because I crashed. It was a sign. I knew I was going to kill myself. The guy told me, 'Don't get it because it's too much power for your first motorcycle.' I didn't care. I was young. Somebody tells you something like that you don't care. I got it anyway and then I brought it back and lost five grand. I was so dumb when I was younger. I hope people, when they see this piece, they see themselves. You only have one life. A motorcycle is a death trap.

If I can bring you the keys to any car what would it be?

It would be a battery car because there's zero fuel. No more oil changes. No more maintenance. Just charging the battery once in a while. That's perfect.

The interview has been edited and condensed.

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About the Author

Petrina Gentile is an award-winning automotive journalist - one of the few women who cover cars in Canada. Her life revolves around wheels. She has been writing for the Drive section since 2004. Besides auto reviews, she also interviews celebrities like Norman Jewison, Patrick Dempsey, Rick Hansen, Dean McDermott, Russell Peters, and Ron MacLean for her My Car column. More

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