Elizabeth May has named former Montreal Canadiens enforcer Georges Laraque as the Green Party's deputy leader -- in an apparent move to boost the party's political presence in Quebec.

In a statement posted on the party's website, Laraque pointed to his involvement with animal welfare issues and development work in Haiti.

The retired 260-pound NHL player said he was happy to have joined "a political party that truly cares about building a healthy and just society." He added that he hopes to focus on resolving Canada's "serious problem with inactivity and obesity," and on environmental sustainability.

Laraque's appointment came about after "looking at what it takes for the Green Party to make its breakthrough," May told CTV News Channel.

"It's because he has just a tremendous following," she said by phone from Vancouver. "People know him as an NHL player and people who ordinarily wouldn't think they might vote Green might just give a listen to things Georges has to say."

Laraque, a Montreal native, is known for being politically active. He became a vegan in 2009 to protest the treatment of animals in the food industry, and explained his decision in a lengthy post on his website, GeorgesLaraque.com.

"I love animals, and I don't believe humans can treat them as commodities and cause them harm," he wrote.

It's still not clear whether Laraque will run in the next federal election, however.

"We're thinking it over," May said. "If he's more of a free agent and can go across the country during a federal election, helping more of our local candidates, there's a real plus in that."

"One of the difficulties that Greens have is that we can't take for granted any riding," she added. "It's time we got some pucks in goal, don't you think?"

In the 2008 federal election, the party won less than four per cent of the popular vote in Quebec. The national average for the party was seven per cent, although it failed to win any ridings.

Laraque replaces Jacques Rivard, who left the Greens for the Bloc Quebecois last month. The party now has two deputy leaders, with Laraque joining Adriane Carr in the role.

In June, at age 33, Laraque ended his 13-year NHL career after the Canadiens bought out the last year of his contract. He had initially been hired to bring some muscle to the team, but in two years he had rarely dropped his gloves and scored just one goal.

With files from The Canadian Press