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Growth for the greater good

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks

It worked for the Green Bay Packers, why not the Vancouver Canucks?

Vancouver Whitecaps FC captain Jay DeMerit, a native of Green Bay, Wisconsin, is, shockingly, a Packers fan.

After the NFL’s second-oldest franchise went 10-6 during the 2010 regular season to enter the playoffs as the NFC’s sixth seed, DeMerit decided to put his razor away for the greater good.

NFL playoffs aren’t nearly as long as the NHL post-season so DeMerit wasn’t too grizzly when the Packers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 31–25 to win their fourth Super Bowl, but he did his part and Green Bay won.

He’s doing his part again, this time supporting the Canucks, and 43 days into operation grow mean beard, DeMerit is sporting some impressive ZZ Top chin carpet.

“This thing will be epic by the end,” laughed the 31-year-old defenceman, who was the first player signed by the Whitecaps prior to their maiden voyage into Major League Soccer this season.

“Sometimes you see the guys that get it in patches and that can get a bit embarrassing. Thankfully I can grow a full beard, which doesn’t make me too out of sorts. Being up in Canada, I’m fitting right in too; it’s been a positive experience so far.”

This is the longest DeMerit has ever grown a beard and a year ago, he would have been clean-shaven and none the wiser to Vancouver’s playoff journey. Now living and playing on the West Coast, he’s embracing the culture and the Canucks are a major part of that.

Being in a hockey hotbed has actually taken DeMerit back to his roots playing hockey on lakes and rivers with friends. Despite being a three-sport athlete in high school, DeMerit couldn’t cut it when it came to lacing up the skates and it’s now been close to 10 years since he sliced up the ice in cheese graters.

DeMerit couldn’t grow a beard back in the day, but he sure can now, as those following @D6MERIT on Twitter have become well aware. He’s been sporadically tweeting pictures of his beard, which goes by the name Chopper, making it clear he’s proud of every hair on his chinny, chin, chin.

He’s also proud of what it stands for.

“It’s me being a part of my new city and supporting the Canucks and the spirit. I think all these playoff runs are special and it comes from the fans and the attitude that they bring. That reflects to the players.

“It’s nice to come into this environment because this city makes it easy to become a Canucks fan.”

DeMerit discovering the Canucks parallels Vancouverites getting to know the Whitecaps, a team 12 games into its inaugural season.

Being a Whitecaps supporter has had its ups and downs so far; growing pains are natural and DeMerit, who had played only four games because of injury, is confident Vancouver will find its game before long.

When DeMerit returns to the line-up, he’ll be hoping to find his game as well, a game that currently includes Chopper, a help and hindrance on the pitch.

“It’s helped me because nobody wants to come near me,” he joked. “I look a bit mean and gnarly, so the intimidation factor is up there for sure.

“It’s hard to sweat with a beard though; when you’re playing for 90 minutes a lot of sweat is running through your beard and that gets a little bit annoying, but it’s not really taken me off my game.”

In addition to the ladies “being appreciative to the ruggedness a beard brings,” DeMerit enjoys rocking a beard simply because he can.

He wishes he could say the same for a few of his Whitecaps teammates. Beard power isn’t exactly sweeping the team.

“I’m trying to get some more beards going, believe me, but when you’re surrounded by 21, 22 and 23-year-olds, it’s kind of hard. They haven’t even figured out how to shave yet," he laughed.

“Either way, they’re all behind the beard as well, they like it and they like the mean side of me as well, so it’s all good.”

All good for the Packers, who won all four games needed to claim the Vince Lombardi Trophy, and so far so good for the Canucks, who need four wins to claim a silver trophy of their own.

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