Brad Marchand is viewed as a villain in every hockey town, except one, Boston. In this town, the little ball of hate is a hero.
As someone who has admired Brad Marchand since he broke into the NHL with the Bruins in 2010, I was a little hesitant when I received a text containing the Player’s Tribune piece penned by Marchand; Built for Boston. Though a very promising title, I didn’t want the article to fall short of my extremely high expectations for #63. However, after slowly starting to read, I quickly sped up with excitement. The mixture of humor and heart that was sprinkled throughout exceeded my expectations and made me want to “run through a wall” as Marchand eloquently stated he would do for Boston in his reflection. I then found myself questioning how I could ever doubt that the Nose would fail to deliver just as he continues to do on the ice with another game winning goal to put the Bruins up 3-1 in their first round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Marchand is the Bruins’ franchise leader in overtime game winners and has many more winners in regulation. He singlehandedly decided three consecutive games in March when the Bruins were without Patrice Bergeron for a significant stretch. His 85 points (34 goals, 51 assists) should put him in the Hart Trophy conversation for MVP. However, it is more likely that the NHL front office will suspend Marchand 10 games for sneezing, if his famous shnoz develops a sniffle. With that said, I’m not going to harp on what could be. Marchand would gladly accept the award for MVP, Most Valuable Pest, if it means bringing another Cup back to Boston.
Marchand expressed extreme appreciation for the way Boston embraced him along the Bruins’ amazing run to a Stanley Cup Championship in 2010-11 and the years following. However, the feeling from this town is mutual toward Marchand.
To elaborate on a point Marchand made in his article, there are very few players every generation who are blessed with phenomenal physical attributes and god given hockey skills at a young age that affords them a smooth trajectory to the upper echelon of hockey players. There are many more past/present/future hockey players who spend years searching for that one x-factor or a single opportunity that allow them to be noticed. The elite players are well covered in the media, but few hear about all these other guys who have to pound a path out of stone to professional hockey. Marchand is one of those other guys. He has worked relentlessly to transform himself to a top player in the world against all odds.
He is the embodiment of this town; to the outside world he is small, cold, and brash, but dig deeper and you find a world class work horse who won’t back down from anything and consistently performs at a high-level.
The x-factor that he realized would allow him an inch that he made a mile was his ability to get under the opposition’s skin and into their heads. The NHL is more competitive now than ever, so every team needs one or more players that can tilt the ice in their favor by throwing the opposition off their game. Marchand admitted to not being the best player on his teams growing up, but he found an opportunity as an agitator and ran with it all the way to a Stanley Cup Championship. He is now coming full circle in search of a second championship after establishing himself as an elite player and he would not have made it to this point without playing without the edge that has made most dislike his game.
For someone who is tagged as the little ball of hate, he expresses copious amounts of love for past and present teammates and coaches who have helped him develop into the player and person he is today. He even pays respect to two rookies that have contributed to the Bruins’ success this season. BUT, at the top of the list is his ride or die, Patrice Bergeron. Marchand reveals that his goal has never been to be the best player on the ice, but it is to support the best player, Bergeron, based on an order given by his former bench boss, Claude Julian. Marchand knows his role on the team and it is not to compete with the more gentlemanly and responsible Bergeron as the Bs’ white knight, but he assumes the opposite role, less liked, but more fitting to his personality and equally necessary for the the team to be successful, the Dark Knight.