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Langlois, Laraque dazzle on "Battle of the Blades"

Powerful duo showcases high flying tricks

Georges Laraque and Anabelle Langlois have gotten off to a fast start on <i>Battle of the Blades</i>.
Georges Laraque and Anabelle Langlois have gotten off to a fast start on Battle of the Blades. (courtesy of CBC)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(10/07/2010) - He's only one performance into his professional pairs skating career, but Georges Laraque has already proven himself a great partner. The day before the first competition show of Battle of the Blades, he and Anabelle Langlois were practicing their spectacular opening trick when she began to fall.

"When she was going down, and I saw her head was about to hit the ice, my reflex was I had to straighten her body so she didn't land on her head," says Laraque, known during his professional hockey career as a fighter and enforcer.

Thanks to Laraque's quick action, Langlois landed on her side and was unhurt. Unfortunately, her skate made impact with his head resulting in a cut that needed 12 stitches. It didn't stop him from performing the trick with gusto on the live show.

"It's the worst he's gotten hurt," says Langlois about the man who survived many brawls during a 14-year pro hockey career.

At 6-foot-3 Laraque, 33, is the biggest former NHL player in season two of Battle of the Blades and at 4-foot-11 Langlois, 29, is the tiniest figure skater. That initially made them seem an odd pairing, but both say their temperaments and Quebec roots make them a great partnership.

"She's a tigress," Laraque marvels. "She loves taking chances and doing crazy stuff, as long as it's safe. Obviously, we practice moves off the ice first. Her personality is kind of like mine. If she does something, she wants to be the best. She says, 'Let's shock the world.' Nobody ever thought we would put on that kind of show.

"She decided she trusted me -- my ability, my balance," he adds. "She's the one calling the shots. We just keep pushing the envelope."

In the first show, Langlois and Laraque skated to "Eye of the Tiger" and performed a maneuver where he turned her in the air in cartwheels. In addition to that move and two incredible lifts, they also showed some nice skating skills, including waltz jumps in both directions.

"People said, 'he's a big enforcer, and skating isn't really his thing.' I didn't even know if he would want to be in figure skates," says Langlois. "He really wanted to go all out, and he wanted to learn how to figure skate."

When Laraque was first approached to do Battle of the Blades, a smash hit on Canada's CBC last year, he didn't really want to do it because of the time commitment. Newly retired from the NHL, he has been incredibly busy with humanitarian efforts, politics and businesses. The show's charitable component -- each participant receives money to donate to the charity of his or her choice and the winning team gets a significant amount -- was the deciding factor. Also, their charities are listed on the show's Web site, www.cbc.ca/battle, and mentioned during each broadcast.

"When they told me they would actually show footage of the hospital in Haiti that I'm building, I thought it was a great way to put Haiti back in the news," Laraque says.

Both of his parents immigrated to Canada from Haiti, and he's always been involved in causes tied to their homeland. Since the devastating earthquake earlier this year, Laraque has been part of a group called Hockey for Haiti. He is a spokesman for World Vision Canada, and Hockey for Haiti teams the NHL Players' Association with World Vision Canada to help rebuild Grace Children's Hospital in Port-au-Prince.

Laraque is also a vegan, and he loves having a new audience to tell about a vegan lifestyle.

"Every day I talk about it," he says. "I try to get everybody around me healthier."

Although she hasn't yet become a vegan, Langlois says she has been consuming considerably less meat lately.

Among those coaching Langlois and Laraque are David Pelletier and Langlois' longtime partner Cody Hay, with whom she competed earlier this year at the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. This spring, she decided it was time to draw her eligible career to a close. She had previously competed at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City with Patrice Archetto.

"I chose to retire. I didn't expect Cody to follow," Langlois says. He is searching for a new partner.

For now, he's helping skating's most unlikely duo create a dynamic impression. Unquestionably, the bar has been raised for season two of Battle of the Blades, and they're intent on meeting it.

"Our goal is to do lifts every show that other people don't do," says Laraque. "Something different so we stand out and people remember."

As for figure skating, Laraque says he has a new love and wants to continue in adult pairs competition after the season is done. He finds it an incredible artistic expression, and it has the same soothing effect on him as listening to classical music.

Langlois is savoring her first professional gig and spending time with the other figure skaters in the cast, who she considers inspirations and mentors.

"When I was asked to do the show, I was shocked and honored," she says. "I'm so excited that I am amongst my heroes every day."

Next week's theme is "bringing sexy back."

"We have to have a surprise every week to make it entertaining," says Laraque.