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February 20, 2012
Feisty, ferocious and very denim-collar, Brad Marchand of the Bruins is making enemies fast, but there's a payoff in that for the NHL's best team
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February 20, 2012

"the Little Ball Of Hate"

Feisty, ferocious and very denim-collar, Brad Marchand of the Bruins is making enemies fast, but there's a payoff in that for the NHL's best team

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"Some guys don't engage in that stuff. Some do," Marchand says. "But the play doesn't end with the whistle."

The Bruins are headed to Washington—and their meeting with the President—on a private three-car train the evening after a 6--5 shootout victory in Philadelphia on Jan. 22. Sitting in his seat, Marchand fidgets. He taps his foot. After an hour of conversation he offers that he probably has ADD before immediately adding that he has never been diagnosed or even tested and is just guessing. O.K. This is the essential Marchand, who at 23 has yet to stumble upon the most adult of traits: an unexpressed thought. He often blurts out, or acts out, whatever he thinks or feels. As the ghostly outline of winter zips by his window, Marchand says, "I don't have a very good filter."

Boston's win over the Flyers was his third game post suspension, and while his timing might have been off Marchand played a typical match. He drew a pair of power plays, one by taking two punches to the back of the head from Ilya Bryzgalov after Marchand, nudged by a defenseman, bumped the Flyers' goalie, careering an already fractious match deeper into the nebulous postwhistle realm. He also did more than just elevate the temperature in the arena. In the opening minute he hurtled down the left boards, bulled past a defender, and fed Patrice Bergeron for a tap-in goal.

Now in his second full season in Boston, the former third-round draft choice has become emblematic of the lunch-pail Bruins. He grabbed more ice time last season because it was apparent he was something more than a mere provocateur. Despite getting mere snippets of power-play time, Marchand, a healthy +22, began the week with 19 goals for a team that has overcome a Stanley Cup hangover so severe it lacked only a tiger and Mike Tyson. After a 3-7-0 start the Bruins (34-17-2), with an NHL-best +64 goal differential, sit snugly in second place in the East, behind the Rangers. Boston bears watching in the second half, just as Marchand should be monitored ... well, constantly.

He was a regular in the principal's office in middle school in suburban Halifax, visits made more awkward because his mother, Lynn, taught there. "My mom would hear my name on the P.A., 'Brad Marchand, report to the principal's office,' and you could hear the clatter of her high heels coming down the hallway a mile away," he recalls. Marchand figures he inherited his nose from his father, his brassiness from her.

His hockey felonies now have made him a semiregular with the NHL's principal. Senior vice president of player safety Brendan Shanahan viewed the clip on Salo as a low bridge too far, which resulted in Marchand's forfeiting some $150,000 of his $2 million salary. (A month earlier Shanahan fined Marchand $2,500 for slew-footing Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen.) But hockey misdemeanors are also splattered all over Marchand's permanent record. During the 2007 Canada-Russia junior Super Series, coach Brent Sutter, exasperated by his penalties, including two misconducts, scratched Marchand for Game 7 and then sat him for Game 8 when he was late for a meeting. On his way to 21 goals last season—in a 2010 end-of-season interview Marchand assured Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli he would score 20 despite never having scored even one in 20 previous NHL games—he mocked the Canadiens as divers and later pantomimed a golf swing at the Maple Leafs bench to remind Toronto it was not going to the playoffs.

But the ultimate Rat moment came in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals against Vancouver. Marchand opened the scoring early by snapping a short-side tracer over goalie Roberto Luongo's shoulder, but the ending of a 5--2 Boston win was what left an indelible mark—in memory, if not on Daniel Sedin's jaw. With two minutes left, Marchand tapped the Canucks star with one, two, three, four, five, six left jabs as referee Kelly Sutherland watched. When reporters asked afterward why he had done it, Marchand said, "Because I felt like it." He decided to take the roughing minor and misconduct, given the score and the time remaining, convinced the NHL would not suspend him for Game 7. He was right. Marchand scored two goals in the 4--0 finale. The Bruins were 9--0 in playoff games in which Marchand scored.

In Claude Julien's Manichaean world, the Bruins' coach separates Marchand into Good Brat and Bad Brat. "He's a good brat when he stays within the rules and disrupts the other team," Julien says. "He's a bad brat when he takes bad penalties and hurts our team. During the playoffs I was meeting with him twice a day about that. He's not a guy who doesn't get it. He gets it. He just slips out of it, and you have to reel him back and spell it out again. Before Game 5 [in Vancouver] when I was done talking, he said, 'Can I say something to you, Coach? ... I just want you to understand I appreciate what you're trying to do for me. I know how I am. And I want you to know I'm appreciative that you continue to help me through this.'" Moved by the memory, Julien pauses. "You don't hear that often from players."

"I really don't like getting scolded," Marchand says, "but sometimes I need a wake-up call." Even if he has the habit of hitting the snooze alarm.

His father, Kevin, forcefully hit the reset button last summer. Obviously Marchand was happy to give the shirt off his back to win the Stanley Cup, which he did in some widely disseminated photos taken at a team party three nights after Game 7, at Foxwoods Casino in Ledyard, Conn. Marchand was excused from scheduled interviews for the official Stanley Cup DVD because at 4 p.m. the next day he had what the NHL might describe as an inner-body injury. Or as Marchand puts it, he was "intoxicated."

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