Former Pittsburgh Penguins and NHL tough guy Georges Laraque was hospitalized on Saturday in Montreal after he tested positive for COVID-19. He first felt ill seven days ago, and the 6-foot-4, 245-pound winger who was known more for protecting star players and pummeling unruly opponents, is himself being roughed up by the disease.
In recent years, Laraque has been a media commentator and the author of a controversial autobiography, which raised the specter of performance-enhancing drugs in hockey.
The former professional athlete who is also asthmatic has pneumonia in both lungs. He said he has a constant headache, wakes up at night with fever and sweats.
“(Last night) was my first really good night. It was the first night I didn’t have any fever,” Laraque said of his battle.
He released a video on Sunday morning to discourage the Quebec province from re-opening schools, and felt the best cautionary tale would be his own. Laraque said doctors initially felt it unnecessary to test him because his lungs were not swollen. He was given a cortisone pill and sent home. However, the following day, the hospital called Laraque, who was having trouble breathing, to say there was an error.
“They called the next day, they said I have pneumonia,” Laraque said. “So I called back … but the doctor was gone. So, I had to wait until the next day, again. Mind you, it was two days after I first went (to the hospital).”
Laraque says the Quebec hospital refused to test him because they didn’t have enough tests.
“If in Quebec, we’re limited by the amount of testing we have, why are we reopening schools to kids,” he asked. “Obviously, there isn’t going to be enough tests for all of the kids going to school. So, if there’s not enough tests for the kids, it’s not going to be a safe environment for the parents when the kids go back to school and for the teachers who are already way underpaid.”
“So, for two months of school, is it worth it?”
The 43-year-old Laraque was performing charitable works, including delivering groceries when he contracted COVID-19. With an oxygen tube visible, he posted a video from his Longuiel hospital room on Sunday.
“I was doing errands for people, deliveries for the elderly, getting lots of groceries, and then suddenly this happened,” he said.
Laraque played 13 seasons in the NHL, including eight with the Edmonton Oilers and two seasons each with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens. He also played one season with the Arizona Coyotes.
“It really hurts,” he said.