BOSTON (AP) — The Boston Bruins named Brad Marchand captain on Wednesday, putting the “C” previously worn by the soft-spoken and universally revered Patrice Bergeron on the sweater of a notorious instigator who — the team insists — has moved on from his face-licking phase and matured into one of the most respected voices in their locker room.
“It means more to me than I think anyone will ever know to be able to wear a ‘C’ for this team," Marchand said. “It almost felt surreal to see the jersey. ... As a 23-year-old, if I would have told myself I would be captain some day, I definitely would not have bet a penny on that."
The Bruins made the announcement at the start of training camp, where they begin their effort to build on the 2022-23 regular season that was the best in NHL history — and to forget about what happened in the playoffs, when they were eliminated in the first round. Entering his 15th season, Marchand is the longest-tenured member of the roster and the last player who has remained with the club since its 2011 Stanley Cup title.
“It’s going to be an incredible amount of work,” Marchand said. “And there’s a lot of pressure — not just from the team, and the expectations of the group, but for myself. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Marchand follows in a line of Bruins captains that runs from Hall of Famers Sprague Cleghorn to Dit Clapper to Milt Schmidt to Johnny Bucyk and Ray Bourque. More recently, Marchand has played under the leadership of Zdeno Chara and Bergeron, riding with them to one NHL championship and two other trips to the Stanley Cup Final.
“I really believe that I’ve witnessed two of the best leaders of all time,” Marchand said. “So there's big shoes to fill, and I'm excited for the opportunity. It's an incredible gift to be part of this organization. I'll do everything I can to continue the legacy those guys have built."
Chara was the captain from 2006-20 before moving on as a free agent, and Bergeron took over for the last two seasons. The 2022-23 Bruins won the most regular-season games and collected the most points in NHL history but lost in the first round to the eventual Eastern Conference champion Panthers; Florida lost in the Stanley Cup Final to the Vegas Golden Knights — coached by Bruce Cassidy, who was fired by the Bruins.
Marchand's first job is to remind the team of what made it successful in the regular season while also helping it forget about its playoff collapse. And he'll have to find a way to control the emotions that have been his hallmark and a key reason why he is one of the most feared scorers in the game.
“I do play with a certain type of passion and emotion, and I won’t lose that. That’s just who I am and I’ll need to continue to do that to be a good player in the league,” Marchand said. “It’s allowed me to be successful, and I don’t want to get away from that.”
Nicknamed “The Little Ball of Hate” and described even in his own official team bio as “chirpy, antagonistic, indomitable and irritating,” Marchand developed a reputation as an agitator through years of slew-foots, loose elbows and nose-to-nose comments after the whistle. But as much as other cities hate him for it, he is beloved in Boston.
“He’s ours, and we’re happy we have him,” Bruins coach Jim Montgomery said. “We love what we have, and so do our fans.”
Bruins president Cam Neely said the team has spoken to Marchand about the “fine line” between playing with passion while remaining in control.
“He’s a very emotional player. So sometimes that gets you in trouble, as it has in the past for him,” Neely said. “But he’s done a nice job the last couple of years controlling those situations a little bit better while still being able to be that competitive player that we all like.”
The concern: that in dialing things back, Marchand loses his edge.
“When you’re a person that thrives on your own emotion, it also is your worst weakness,” Montgomery said. “I think with Brad, he's learned. You learn with experience how to use that. ... You have to be who you are. And I really like who Brad Marchand is as captain of our team.”
One of Marchand's duties as captain — the goal, in fact — would be to accept the Stanley Cup from the commissioner if the Bruins manage to win it, and to take the first lap around the ice with the trophy.
He insists he isn't thinking that far ahead.
“I really don’t get caught up in thinking about things down the road. A perfect example is last year,” he said. “You can’t get caught up in what’s ahead of you. You’ve got to be in the moment, and I’m so grateful for this moment right now and for each and every day that’s going to come up.”
AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl
Jimmy Golen, The Associated Press