The National Hockey League’s Brad Marchand Problem

Marc Elliott

Anthony Duclair injured by Bruins   Brad Marchand
Anthony Duclair injured by Bruins Brad Marchand

LARSMONT… I’ll be straight up with you, I’m not a Boston Bruin fan nor am I a Brad Marchand fan. My distaste for the team goes way back to the days of the NorthStars in Minnesota and the manner in which the Bruins bullied and intimidated the NorthStars to a 30-some game unbeaten streak until the NorthStars responded on a cold February evening back in 1981. The NorthStars didn’t win the game on that night, but notice was given that the days of being pushed around by the Bruins were over. Later that spring in a quirk of fate they met in a Stanley Cup playoff series and the NorthStars spanked them in a best of 5 series 3 games to nil. The Bruins, as an organization, continued on with that style of play for some time, even wearing it as some bizarre badge of honor, allowing it to influence personnel, coaching and playing decisions (much like the Philadelphia Flyers) to the extent that I believe it has probably cost them a Cup or two somewhere along the line, all for the sake of being able to say how tough and macho of a team they were.  

As a kid growing up in St. Paul I very much favored the local St. Paul Rangers (CHL) who were affiliated with the NHL New York Rangers over the crosstown Minneapolis Millers, who in 1963 were renamed the Minneapolis Bruins due to that alignment with the NHL club in a newly formed CHA. I loved the Red and Blue uniforms of the Rangers while also liking the Chicago Blackhawks back then (how could you not like Bobby Hull & Stan Mikita?) but none could hold a candle to my all time faves the Montreal Canadiens, which probably, to a great extent, explains my burgeoning contempt for the Bruins. I’m not as hard on that as I once was and actually am a huge Bobby Orr fan, he IS one of my all time favorite players, in fact I believe him to be the best overall player in hockey history. 

But on to Mr. Bradley Kevin Marchand. In hockey parlance he is known as an agitator, a pest, a “shift disturber” amongst other things. Those who know the game well understand the role of that type of player and how they can use their on-ice actions to influence the outcome of a game by disrupting the thought processes of their opposition. To perform this role well in todays game whereby players are not only better conditioned physically then in days past, but also probably much more mentally conditioned too requires an individual of superb talent. You must be able to stay a step ahead of your opponents physically and mentally to be able to avoid your own demise while out on the ice. To do this role well is to make every opponent and their fans hate you with their total being. Marchand was seemingly born for this role. He can walk into any arena outside of Boston and automatically become hockey’s version of the worst pro wrestling “bad guy” in the game.   

On the downside, most wrestling bad guys all have a fatal flaw. There is that one thing about them that the good guys can expose and exploit, sending the villain to a certain defeat and on his way out of town. Marchand is no different. Most players and fans know and understand the antics of a player that does this for a living. An elbow here, a slash there, a verbal taunt answered by a challenge to drop the gloves, followed by a refusal to do so, only making opponents even more frustrated by such a player. Marchie is quite good at this, not the best ever in my book, but he ranks high with little doubt.  

The guy can play though. He is probably the best player-pest I have ever seen, easily one of the best 50 players in the world right now. So, what is his flaw you ask? He is a danger to opposing players. He is unsafe, injurious to others and becoming worse. Since January of this year alone he has concussed an opponent with a deliberate elbow to the head. That was on the 23rd, that player just began skating again March 7th. He got a 5-game suspension for that. Last Thursday he dangerously low-bridged the Flyers Shayne Gostisbehere and on Saturday versus the Blackhawks he clotheslined Anthony Duclair forcing him to fall backwards, folding over his right leg in the process. The Duke is out for 2 weeks minimum. Marchand claims that the last two incidents were “accidents”. Sure they were.

Since 1961 I have seen thousands of NHL tilts. I played and I coached. I’m not into giving a “benefit of the doubt” or allowing for the possibility that Marchie gets ‘reputation” calls against him. He knows exactly what he is doing out there at all times. It’s just that simple. If my tally is correct he has been suspended on six occasions for a total of 17 games and has received $17,500 in fines, not to mention lost salary. This does not account for the times he should have received more discipline and didn’t. He is an embarrassment to the NHL and to the game of hockey. Whatever the league has sent his way in an attempt to get his attention and correct the way he plays has clearly had no effect. The Boston club, media and fans are in denial about this player. I see nothing but a steady stream of excuses regarding his on-ice behavior. Of course, they would thrash about on the floor if someone “Marchanded” one of theirs.

There are no excuses left for this player. Play hard, play tough, I get that. But when you are purposely trying to injure opponents a line must be drawn. The Bruins and Marchand had the nerve to get upset a few years back when after injuring one of his then players, Coach Alain Vignault said that someone was “going to hurt that kid” meaning that someday someone would catch Marchand and give him his own medicine. That possibility exists but I don’t see too many players willing to take on the problems that come with revenge hits. As of today, the leagues Department of Player Safety has issued no statements regarding last week’s two incidents, so they probably aren’t going to act. Doing nothing just might have future consequences. 

I can see the time when the next Marchand incident will become a much bigger public relations nightmare for the NHL then it ever has, and then the stuff will hit the fan. He’ll end someone’s career with his stupidity and the league and the game will pay the price. Why? PEACE