First, a confession: when I was a kid, Guy Lafleur was my favorite NHLer. So I’m not about to pretend the rest of this column isn’t at all influenced by the wonderful memories he created for millions of other hockey fans who appreciated him as I did.
With that out of the way, I’d like to express my sincere disgust with the legal conundrum Lafleur finds himself in after the Montreal Police Service issued an arrest warrant Wednesday for the 56-year-old Lafleur and accused him of misleading a tribunal – a charge that carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in jail.
What did the former Canadiens superstar and Hockey Hall of Famer allegedly mislead the court about? What terrible, unforgivable act put him in the crosshairs of Quebec law enforcement officials?
According to the police, Lafleur provided contradicting testimony in regards to his troubled, 23-year-old son, Mark, who has had multiple, serious run-ins with the law (including charges of sexual assault and kidnapping), many of which can be attributed to the younger Lafleur’s drug addiction.
The accusation against the former NHLer could hardly be considered breaking news; the elder Lafleur, testifying at his child’s bail hearing last November, was admonished at that time by a judge for failing to mention in previous testimony he had aided his son in violating bail conditions by twice driving him to a Montreal-area motel, where Mark Lafleur spent the night with his girlfriend.
That is the sum total of Guy Lafleur’s supposed crime. A father may have withheld information, either intentionally or accidentally, on the parenting route he thought would best help his sick child get on the road to recovery.
Heinous, isn’t it?
Like hell it is.
Forget for a moment that Guy Lafleur, in living nearly his entire adult life in the public eye, never had been charged with any offence prior to this incident. Forget the countless amounts of charity work the man has done over the past three decades.
Forget even the very public, embarrassing manner in which the warrant against Guy Lafleur was issued – “there was no need for that,” his lawyer said – a manner that Canadian politicians and Average Joes accused of far worse than perjury rarely have been subject to.
Really, none of that should enter into the argument, just as none of former NHLer Rob Ramage’s good deeds stopped him from a significant prison sentence for impaired driving causing death, among other charges.
Here’s what does matter: Through his actions in court, Guy Lafleur has demonstrated he’s the same as just about every other father or mother on the face of the earth. He looks like someone who would defy anybody, or anything, if he believed such defiance could benefit a child locked in the slow-death squeeze of substance abuse.
“(Mark) respected (a court-imposed curfew) except for twice, when he asked if he could go to a hotel,” Guy Lafleur told the court in October. “I thought that at (age) 22 he had a right to some intimacy.”
Beyond that, perhaps the father thought the son might think twice about returning to a life of malfeasance and dependency if he had some companionship to lean on. Guy Lafleur may not have been correct in such an assumption, but the desperation felt by all parents of drug addicts does not contribute to level-headed thought.
I don’t have any kids of my own, but I can tell you right now, I’d lie in the presence of God if I thought it would pull my son or daughter from the perils of drug addiction. And I’ll bet there are a lot more people out there like me than the holier-than-thou procedure-philes who’ll take great pains to explain why this type of perjury is such a high crime.
Those legalists can save their breath. Nobody will ever convince me that criminalizing any and all minor ripple effects of someone’s physiological and/or psychological condition isn’t as barbaric and impractical as Canada’s court system gets.
The Lafleur family deserves our compassion, not any more punishment than their son’s poor choices have already delivered upon them.
They have been humiliated enough as it is, and the petty, spiteful charge Guy Lafleur faces today will do absolutely nothing to either end their misery or make the streets of Montreal safer.
Adam Proteau’s Screen Shots appears every Thursday only on thehockeynews.com. Want to take a shot at Adam Proteau? You can send him a comment or question through our Ask Adam feature.
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