TORONTO – At the World Cup pre-tournament games for Team Canada in Ottawa, Brad Marchand was booed. He was also booed when the team got to Toronto for the start of the event.
It didn’t matter to the local fans that Marchand wasn’t on the hated Boston Bruins for this event and actually playing for their Team Canada. They still wanted to let Marchand know their displeasure for him.
But when Marchand gripped his hands around the World Cup trophy to lift it over his head, all of the Canadian fans in the Air Canada Centre cheered loudly for the 5-foot-9, 181-pound Halifax native.
“To be on a team like this and to have success and to win with a team like this, it’s an incredible feeling,” Marchand said. “I think all of Canada gets behind that and they all feel the enjoyment of that, feel the success of that and we all enjoy it together. It’s not just our team but all of Canada will be celebrating tonight.”
This capped two of the most memorable hockey playing weeks of Marchand’s life. He got to play wing on a line with Sidney Crosby, received a new eight-year contract extension with the Boston Bruins and scored the World Cup game-winner shorthanded to give the Canadians a 2-1 last minute victory.
“I think the whole thing has been a bit of a whirlwind,” Marchand said. “When you come into a tournament like this you’re just trying to take everything in. This is the biggest stage in the world right now and to be a part of it is an incredible honor. And then to be put on a line with Sid and (Patrice Bergeron) is another big honor and there’s a lot of pressure that goes with that but it has been an incredible experience. Every day with the guys in the room and off the ice and like Sid said, the things we had to overcome. It has been a dream come true and I’ll cherish every second of this for the rest of my life.”
The World Cup showed off Marchand’s transformation that started last season from the agitating pest that President Barack Obama once referred to as a “little ball of hate” to high-end goal scorer. Marchand notched 37 goals for the Bruins and was named to Team Canada’s roster. But even after 2015-16 it didn’t appear Marchand would ride shotgun on one of the most coveted wing spots in the tournament with Crosby.
When Canada started training camp, Marchand was with Crosby and Bergeron and the trio stuck together throughout the tournament. Crosby and Bergeron had played together before internationally and knew each other’s games pretty well at this level. Marchand was more of a wild card – but quickly he clicked with the two centers and became the group’s designated sniper with a tournament leading five goals.
“I think we came into camp and it seemed to gel right away. And
definitely when you can get a good start, it builds confidence, and that’s a big part of it,” Crosby said. “So we were able to get a good start there in the first game. Yeah, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, and you have to juggle. I thought right from the start it felt like we were able to generate a lot, and it’s fun to share this with them. Being from the same area (with Marchand in Nova Scotia), never really having a chance to play together, and then to play together on this kind of a stage, playing for your country, it’s pretty special.”
Marchand’s game-tying goal in the semifinal quickly erased Russia’s one-goal lead and set up Canada for a dominant third period, where he scored the go-ahead goal. His goal Thursday in Game 2 of the final capped a furious comeback by Canada where they were down 1-0 until Bergeron tied the game with 2:53 left.
This set the stage for Marchand to trailed the play up ice shorthanded and bury a feed from Jonathan Toews past Jaroslav Halak for the game-winner with 43.1 seconds left.
“(Toews) made a great play to open up a lot of space and I just wanted to get a shot on net and luckily the puck went in the net,” he said.
Marchand has been able to become an elite goal scorer without sacrificing the identity that got him to this point. All tournament he still played with the same agitating way that’s his calling card. After this World Cup, Marchand appears poised to continue scoring goals at that elite level, and maybe even at a more prolific rate based on how he played this tournament.
At very least he arrived on a national stage for his offensive talent and that alone.
“Well obviously it’s special for him and his family and the opportunity he had here,” Canada coach Mike Babcock said. “Let’s not kid ourselves, he’s still a pest. He’s going to be a pest when we play in our home opener, he’ll be a pest. But he’s a pest with elite speed, elite skill and a good penalty killer.”
Added Babcock, ” These are things you remember forever. (He’s) a Cup winner, he’s won a World Championship, and he’s won a World Cup. He keeps playing good, and if they keep the Olympics alive, he’ll have a chance there.”
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