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NHL enforcer Laraque takes it on the chin after ad featuring scantily clad women

Montreal Canadiens' enforcer Georges Laraque stretches during a practice, Tuesday, April 14, 2009 in Brossard, Que. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

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Montreal Canadiens' enforcer Georges Laraque stretches during a practice, Tuesday, April 14, 2009 in Brossard, Que. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

MONTREAL - NHL tough guy Georges Laraque is pumping out apologies faster than he pummels his opponents after appearing in an ad that ran afoul of women's groups and league rules on alcohol.

Women's groups decried the ad for an alcohol drink which showed the Montreal Canadiens enforcer playing street hockey with several scantily clad women.

The National Hockey League was equally unhappy.

NHL spokespeople sent The Canadian Press a copy of Article 25.1 of the league's collective bargaining agreement which states no player can sponsor or endorse an alcoholic beverage.

Asked whether Laraque might be punished, the league said there would be no further comment.

An apologetic Laraque said he should never have appeared in the ad, was sorry if he offended anyone, swore he donated the proceeds to an animal-rights group, and promised to work for a women's cause in the future.

"People who know me know I'm not that kind of (macho) person," Laraque told reporters at a Habs practice Tuesday.

"That's not the kind of thing I'd agree to promote."

Despite its street hockey theme, the ad features more skin than slapshots and more jiggling than puckhandling.

It's only running on the Internet and although it features no dialogue whatsoever, in either French or English, it concludes with a printed slogan in both of Canada's official languages.

Laraque said he had no idea what the ad's script was when he arrived for the TV shoot and that he only agreed to do it because it offered a lucrative payday for charity.

He said he always donates proceeds from his off-ice activities to charity and that he is now prepared to help a women's rights group to make up for his appearance in the ad.

"If I'd known (the ad's content) I wouldn't have done it - that's for sure."

33mag.com, the advertising company responsible for the spot, said it was done tongue in cheek, as a parody of sexist beer ads.

The ad is for Octane. 7.0, which combines an energy drink with alcohol.

Quebec's most prominent women's group was not impressed with the ad.

"This is one more example of sexist advertising," said Alexa Conradi, of the Federation des femmes du Quebec.

"Why is it that when we're trying to market a campaign toward men aged 20 to 35, we always use this kind of ad? What does that say about our concept of masculinity?

"That's a very limited concept of masculinity, to always feature half-naked girls at angles where you don't see their whole body, but focus on their bums and breasts."

Tuesday's events also brought into focus the dual life of Laraque - a man who's earned an off-ice reputation as a jolly giant, and an on-ice living by smashing in opponents' faces.

His devotion to charitable causes was being touted on the front page of a Montreal newspaper Tuesday.

As controversy began raging over his alcohol ad, Laraque was pictured in the newspaper walking dogs and discussing his recent conversion to veganism.

He says he swore off eating all meat, fish, poultry and dairy products this year after watching "Earthling" - a documentary about the exploitation of animals. He's now working to narrate a French-language version of the movie.

He says his community involvement began with a hospital visit when he was with the Edmonton Oilers, and saw the joyful reaction of a young cancer patient when he arrived with teammate Doug Weight.

He told the newspaper that when he retires he wants to be remembered for his community work - not for the number of people he's beaten up.

While Laraque is perhaps the most dangerous fighter in the league, he is frequently criticized by fans for not dropping his gloves enough.

They say his gentlemanly refusal to fight weaker players, combined with his own modest hockey skills, makes him a liability on the ice.

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