Hockey needs more players like Marchand


Brad Marchand is a polarizing star player for the Boston Bruins. Appropriately nicknamed The Rat due to his history of getting underneath opponents’ skin, he is a bundle of energy that you either love or hate.

There’s no in between with Marchand. A winning hockey player who is a big part of the Bruins success including scoring some big goals as a rookie during their march to the Stanley Cup in 2011, he knows how to push the envelope.

His in your face physical style has made him a fan favorite in Boston for a decade. A talented player who combines great skating with finesse, grit and skill, the 33-year old from Nova Scotia shows no signs of slowing down.

He entered Thursday night’s home game versus Washington leading the Bruins in scoring with 43 points (20-23-43). That includes penalty minutes (53). It wouldn’t be The Rat if he didn’t get into it with upset opponents. Sometimes, it’s gone overboard with some of his antics leading to injuries to players and suspensions. That’s why he’s hated by most opposing fans.

The thing about Marchand is he is the definition of a smart player who can deliver in the clutch. Whether it be with a huge goal or splendid pass to an open teammate, he is a game-breaker. With two shorthanded goals in ’21-22, nobody has scored more shorthanded goals than The Rat since he entered the league in ’09-10. He has 33 over that span.

As part of one of the game’s best scoring lines, Marchand is the straw that stirs the drink. It’s astonishing what he and Patrice Bergeron have accomplished along with premier finisher David Pastrnak. They have been referred to as the Perfection Line. While it isn’t the greatest nickname, it’s probably in reference to how dominant the cohesive trio can be at even strength. They can beat you off the rush or the forecheck while being relentless.

That kind of sums up Brad Marchand. It’s hard to believe he was a third round pick in ’06. Somehow, the Bruins stole him with pick number 71. It was a draft class that featured Jonathan Toews, Nicklas Backstrom, Jordan Staal, Phil Kessel, Claude Giroux and Erik Johnson who all went in the first round. So did Semyon Varlamov. Interestingly, the Bruins also selected Milan Lucic in the second round with pick 50. The picks of Lucic and Marchand along with getting Bergeron in Round Two at number 45 of the famed ’03 Draft helped shape Boston into one of the league’s elite teams.

That kind of advanced scouting helped the Original Six franchise break a four decade Cup drought when they came back to defeat the Canucks over seven games in 2011. They also had the clutch Tim Thomas in net making money saves en route to the Conn Smythe. Many people forget how great the two-time Vezina winner was for the B’s. His replacement became a former Toronto first round pick named Tuukka Rask, who they stole for Andrew Raycroft. Oops. If that doesn’t explain the Leafs, what will?

While Bergeron has been front and center since debuting as a teenager in ’03-04, Marchand is right behind as the third longest tenured Bruin with Rask rejoining the team recently. Gone are the days of Lucic terrorizing opponents with his tenacious style. He still plays in Calgary. Even fixture Zdeno Chara is no longer in Beantown. He’s now with the Islanders still keeping opponents honest at 45. Remarkable.

Be that as it may, a look at the current Bruins and it’s Marchand who’s their best player. That isn’t meant as disrespect towards Bergeron, whose remarkable two decade career will one day be recognized by the Hockey Hall Of Fame. Ditto for Pastrnak, who finally is on a tear having scored two more goals in a 4-3 home win over the Caps last night.

In that same game, Marchand was on the receiving end of a questionable hit from Washington’s Garnet Hathaway. As he skated for a loose puck in the corner, Hathaway caught Marchand in a prone position leveling him with a high hit into the boards. Fortunately, he wasn’t shaken up. However, he was seen favoring his shoulder on the Bruins bench. He left the game with an apparent upper body injury.

Ironically, the same Marchand who has a great personality off the ice, was in a great mood before the game. Following warm-ups, he took a fan’s phone and recorded a video message while heading back to the locker room. Here’s how it looked.

This is part of who he is. A true character, Marchand will let fans in on what he’s thinking. He was recently mic’d up for a TNT game. While doing a pregame interview with the studio, he spoke about having to be careful with the microphone. Then in the next breath candidly said, “Shit,” to laughter.

He is the kind of engaging personality the game can use more of. While most hockey players give standard blah responses to questions including Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid, it’s the larger than life stars such as Alex Ovechkin, Marc-Andre Fleury and Marchand who provide fans with more entertaining answers. Ditto for Ryan Reaves, who is a bundle of fun.

One wonders what will happen to that fan’s phone. They’ll get it back and probably include a surprise. Obviously, Marchand didn’t expect to get hurt. But injuries happen. Somehow, that wasn’t a boarding penalty on Hathaway, who does have a history. Instead, they gave him an interference minor due to the puck being gone. It looked like it could’ve been more.

One could argue that this time, the shoe is on the other foot. Especially given the type of player Marchand’s been. Let’s say he misses time due to the shoulder. Will Hathaway get off scot free? It’s very likely. They might not see it as a bad hit. But it wasn’t smart. That can be perceived as reckless.

Another area Marchand excels at is being the king of social media. If you don’t follow him on Twitter, he’s always good for some entertaining remarks. After the Bruins were blown out by the Hurricanes 7-1, the Carolina Hurricanes Twitter account were up to their old tricks. That prompted an interesting response from The Rat.

I love his openness. He is an equal opportunist. I find Marchand refreshing in a world that’s so quick to jump down the throats of big stars when they dare post something controversial to challenge the establishment. Take his view on the NHL pulling out of Beijing.

While I get why he feels that way due to where he is in his career, the league had no choice. Once so many games got postponed due to COVID issues, it became unrealistic for NHL participation in the Winter Games. Marchand made a point that he’d have gone anyway even if the NHL were still playing games due to Taxi Squads. He probably isn’t alone. Don’t forget Ovechkin wanted to go play for Russia a few years ago.

The unique part about Marchand is he is one of the best players. His production along with hockey awareness and grit make him a tough player. If he wasn’t The Rat, maybe he’d have been up for the Hart Trophy before. He sure is valuable to his team. It’s been his play along with Pastrnak that have helped Boston recover from a disappointing start.

As long as he continues to perform at a high level, one day Marchand should also make the Hockey Hall Of Fame. He’s a remarkable player who plays the game hard. He won’t always please everyone. But remains a star whose game is fun to watch. Just like his voice. Once a Rat, always The Rat 🐀.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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