SHOP: Women's Red CH Logo Long Sleeves
Just ask Jon Merrill, who was acquired by the Canadiens on Sunday afternoon from the Detroit Red Wings.
The 29-year-old defenseman and his better half, Jess, have four young daughters - Olive, Lennon, Jolie and five-week-old Sonny.
They remained in Michigan when Merrill flew to Edmonton to begin his mandatory quarantine and await the arrival of his new teammates for an upcoming five-game road trip.
As difficult as parting ways with his childhood team was, having grown up in the Flint and Detroit suburbs and played at the University of Michigan, leaving his own crew behind was obviously even harder.
"It was tough for me to leave my young family back there, knowing that they won't be able to come to Canada because of some of the COVID restrictions," said Merrill, via Zoom from his hotel room in the Alberta capital on Tuesday morning. "That was the toughest part."
That's the nature of the business, of course, so the eight-year veteran is going with the flow and eagerly anticipating the chance to suit up for some meaningful hockey soon.
While the Red Wings are essentially out of postseason contention, the Canadiens comfortably occupy the fourth and final playoff spot in the North Division and are trending toward a first-round matchup against the rival Toronto Maple Leafs.
"As athletes, we want to be in the important games, we want to be in the big games. You want to feel like you've got a chance at it and you're making an impact. It becomes frustrating when your efforts don't get the results that you want," said Merrill, who boasts 392 games of NHL experience with New Jersey, Vegas and Detroit. "To have an opportunity to come somewhere like this and see there's tons of opportunity with a really good team, and to really have a chance at this, it's rejuvenating."
Video: Jon Merrill on joining the Canadiens
When he isn't riding his stationary bike or lifting weights in the comfort of his hotel room, the former second-round selection of the Devils expects to spend the week hopping on Zoom calls with members of the Canadiens' coaching staff to get a better sense of the team's system.
He'll also be paying close attention to the squad's next three home games for added preparation.
Merrill, however, isn't at all concerned with what his role under interim head coach Dominique Ducharme might be. He's open to any assignment.
"I don't look into that too much. Every day I'm in the NHL, I'm just happy to be there. Anytime my name is called to go over the boards, I'll be ready to go, whether it's 20 minutes a night or 12, I'm ready to go," mentioned Merrill. "I'm really excited about the opportunity to play some playoff games and play some meaningful games down the stretch."
Make no mistake about it, the imposing blueliner was an important part of the Red Wings' back end in 36 contests this year, ranking first on the roster in blocked shots (58), third in average ice time per game (19:41) and fourth in plus-minus differential (plus-2), so he brings a lot to the table.
His 16 playoff appearances over three seasons with the Golden Knights will come in handy on a young Canadiens roster, too.
"I'm open to playing with anyone. They're all great players. Everybody's in the NHL for a reason, so I'm happy to be playing with anybody. I'm not too picky," noted Merrill, regarding his versatility. "I've been put in all kinds of different situations throughout my career, from playing over 20 minutes to only playing 13-15, so I've done a little bit of everything. I've played the left, played the right, power play and penalty kill. I'll help this club win in any way I can. I'll do whatever it takes."
While sporting the Winged Wheel doesn't necessarily come with the same pressure as donning the CH, Merrill relishes the challenge ahead.
Playing in one of his favorite barns on a regular basis might have something to do with his embracing the change of scenery as well.
"It's exciting to be in the mainstream of the hockey world and in the heart of it all. It's unfortunate because of COVID that we won't have fans in the building because it's always been one of my favorite places to play, at the Bell Centre," explained Merrill, who'll be wearing number 28 for the Canadiens. "It'll be a little bit of a different vibe being empty, but the buzz from the media on TV all the time is something I'm really excited about."
If you weren't familiar with Merrill before Sunday's transaction, you likely Googled his name to check out his stats and caught a glimpse of his trademark mullet.
It appears that his father inspired the rockstar look.
What's the deal, Jon?
"It's definitely a lifestyle. You've got to be able to back it up when you wear a haircut like this. I'm definitely just a free spirit and an easygoing guy. It's easy to manage, too. You just have to run your fingers through the top and let the back do what it wants to do, and it looks good that way," said Merrill. "It's definitely something that I've become accustomed to and I don't plan on changing it anytime soon."
The definition of cuteness
Back in September, Jess shared a video of Jon surprising their daughters after a two-month stay in the Edmonton bubble.
The Vegas Golden Knights had just been eliminated by the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Finals, and NHL.com writer Pat Pickens described the special moment as "a pretty good consolation prize."
As expected, it wasn't long before the video went viral.
The clip has been viewed over 1.1 million times, and with good reason.