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Georges Laraque, right, in a January, 2010, file photo. (Shaun Best/Reuters)
Georges Laraque, right, in a January, 2010, file photo. (Shaun Best/Reuters)

Green Party names ex-NHL tough guy as deputy leader Add to ...

The federal Greens are hoping a former NHL tough guy will boost the party's profile and help it to score big in the next election.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May named Georges Laraque as a deputy leader of the party on Saturday.

The 260-pound former Montreal Canadien will focus on promoting the link between physical health and the environment.

"I just want to improve people's health and change the world," Mr. Laraque said in a telephone interview from Vancouver, where the announcement was made.

"I wasn't doing that when I was playing hockey, I was an entertainer. Now it's time for me to show the true person that I am."

But Mr. Laraque isn't planning to go all the way for the Green Party. He maintains he has no intention of seeking a seat in the next federal election. He joined the party last February, but his role had remained undefined until now.

I get excited joining causes, that's what I was born for, to change the world. Georges Laraque

With his massive frame and wide smile, the 33-year-old has become an eye-catching proponent for animal rights in Quebec.

His interest in the cause was sparked when he was asked to be the French voice for a documentary exposing the inhumane treatment of animals in various industries.

The muscular athlete soon announced he would become a vegan, meaning he doesn't eat meat and animal-derived products such as milk and eggs.

Montreal-born Laraque later helped launch two raw vegan restaurants in the city.

He's also employed by a Vancouver-based vertical farming company that grows fruit and vegetables in compact indoor facilities.

The hockey enforcer-turned-politician said he's comfortable juggling his various roles.

"I'm bursting with energy and I love doing a whole lot of things at once," he said. "I get excited joining causes, that's what I was born for, to change the world."

The announcement is also part of an attempt by the party to gain traction in Quebec.

Ms. May said the party was seeking a high profile supporter who could bring young people into the Green party fold and who would resonate with Quebeckers.

The former Habs bruiser seemed to fit the bill.

"He's already a name that people know and hockey is our national game," said Ms. May, adding that Mr. Laraque is not a conventional baby-kisser and handshaker.

"Georges is not a policy wonk, Georges is not a career politician, he's someone we hope people will see as the Green Party is - fresh faced and letting fresh air into the room of Canadian politics."

Earlier this year the Canadiens released the enforcer and bought out the remaining year on a US$4.5-million three-year contract.

It was a sudden end to a 13-year NHL career.

Mr. Laraque was drafted first to the Edmonton Oilers and later played for the Pittsburgh Penguins for a year-and-a-half before the Canadiens signed him as a free agent in 2008.

But he said Saturday his hockey days were behind him.

"When you retire, who cares about how many Stanley Cups you won, how much money you made?" he said.

Mr. Laraque is known for an off-ice demeanour that belies his enforcer role.

Of Haitian origin, he championed the Hockey for Haiti project that raised more than $1-million in funds to build a health clinic and reconstruct a children's hospital in the country devastated by an earthquake in January.

He has also been the face of a campaign against Shaken Baby Syndrome. The "Are you tough enough to be gentle?" ad shows a buff and shirtless Mr. Laraque cradling an infant.

But Mr. Laraque came under fire in 2009 for featuring in an ad for an alcoholic energy drink that had the athlete playing an impromptu ball hockey game with nubile and scantily clad young women.

He later apologized for appearing in the online video advert.

The party's constitution allows for two deputy leaders and Laraque will share the role with Adriane Carr.

He replaces Jacques Rivard, who jumped ship to the Bloc Québécois in June.

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