Bruins winger Brad Marchand has kept a diary for ESPNBoston.com this season. Here he reflects on the tragedy in Boston that occurred last week, discusses what the Bruins need to do to get far in the playoffs, what he’s learned from Jaromir Jagr and reveals what competition he has with Tyler Seguin. (As told to Louise K. Cornetta)
When the marathon bombings occurred on Monday, I was actually sleeping. We were supposed to have a game that night, so I was taking a pregame nap. I wasn’t sure if I was going to play or not as I was coming back from my concussion. I was napping and my girlfriend came in and woke me up to tell me what happened. I got up and watched the news and saw everything that was going on. I didn’t know anyone personally that was hurt, but I have very close friends that know people that were. It’s very upsetting.
The whole situation was devastating, especially when children are involved with the death of 8-year-old Martin Richard. A young kid who was a Bruins fan touches everyone’s heart. It was very upsetting. Every time you see his picture or hear his name it brings tears.
I wanted to do what I could to help. I am raffling off a suite for our first playoff home game with the proceeds going to help the Richard family. It’s $5 per ticket and you can enter by going to www.bruinsraffles.org. The idea came to me when I was lying in bed. I had the box for one game. I spoke to my PR guys in the morning and asked if it could happen. They said they would definitely be able to figure something out. They came back to me and said a raffle seemed the best idea. I agreed. I just wanted to help out any way I could.
Wednesday was the first sporting event in Boston. The atmosphere in this building was a whole different feeling. We were very emotional before the ceremony with the video and the anthem. Seeing how everybody came together singing and all the emotions that they had, it was spectacular. Even throughout the whole game, everyone was chanting "Boston Strong" and "U-S-A." When you would hear that, it gives you goosebumps.
I didn’t know that was what was going to happen with the national anthem that Rene [Rancourt] would start singing and then let the crowd take over. It was tough not to look around and watch, but I had my eyes closed to fight back tears. We had a job to do and I was trying to stay focused, but I was fighting back tears thinking about the video and listening to everyone sing the anthem. It was very, very tough to focus because it was so emotional.
At the end of Wednesday’s game, both teams went out on the ice and raised our sticks. The idea came from Buffalo’s captain Thomas Vanek. You don’t usually see that happen at the end of a game. It showed a lot of class by Buffalo staying after the game there and giving a salute. Sometimes you will see it from the home team, but the fact that the away team joined in was a huge thing. Also the Penguins and Panthers wearing police caps during warmups before their games against us, like we did on Saturday, just shows the amount of respect that there is around the league.
On Friday, we were supposed to play that night. I was trying to get ready for the game in case they caught him. We kind of figured that if they didn’t catch him that we wouldn’t be playing. We were told in the morning not to come to the rink for practice and to stay in the house. I kind of walked around the house a little bit just to get my legs going. Pretty much all day I sat on the couch watching the news as I tried to follow what was happening.
After Sunday’s game we gave first responders the shirts off our backs. I met with first responders on Wednesday after our game as well. The whole time I was with them they kept thanking me for being a part of everything that was happening, like meeting them and coming to the game. We were sitting there saying, "No thank you for everything you have done. You guys are the heroes." The way they all explained it is that they have seen so much and went through so much that the Bruins game was a way to get their minds focused on something else, get their minds off it and have something to look forward to. To be part of that and just to make them smile for a little bit, it’s a very special thing that we take a lot of pride in.
In that spirit of getting people’s minds off of things for a few minutes, I’ll talk some hockey now. I guess I should start with returning from the mild concussion I got against the Devils. What happened was the puck was going around the boards, it kind of hopped over my stick, I saw [Anton] Volchenkov coming. I tried to turn my head and when I did I think he kind of extended his elbow a bit and got me on the side of the head.
What does a concussion feel like? It’s different. You almost feel really foggy. You can’t really see right. You just don’t feel like yourself. Mine wasn’t a really bad one, so I didn’t forget what happened. I was able to remember everything, which is good. I just had headaches and was a little foggy. I haven’t had any problems since I came back. Actually, the time off gave my legs a little rest.
We have had a very condensed schedule without a whole lot of breaks. You never like to sit out and watch your team play, but in trying to take the positives out of it, I was able to get rest and recover. I feel better now that I’m back. We play a lot of games here in our last week with four games in six nights coming up. It’s a lot and it’s tiring, but we are well-trained athletes and should be able to battle through it.
Playoffs are coming up and we did clinch a playoff spot. Would we like to finish higher than Montreal? We want to finish as high in the standings as we can. Having home-ice advantage is big in the playoffs. Obviously, the playoffs are the best time of year. It’s very exciting hockey. The fans love it here. I think we will have some hard-fought battles from start to finish and we have to make sure we’re ready for that. We have to play our game, to do what allows us to win. We play four lines. We play very hard, very physical and with a lot of energy. If we can do that, hopefully we will be able to have a good run.
Some quick hits on other hockey items that have been going on:
* The Penguins game on Saturday didn’t go the way we wanted it to. We all know Jarome Iginla ended up in Pittsburgh and not Boston. He is a great player, but he’s just one piece of the puzzle over there. You saw the fans booing him a little bit. But that’s how it goes in hockey and it’s something that creates rivalries. Hopefully we’ll see him again during the playoffs.
* We added Carl Soderberg to the team. He came over from Sweden. He’s a big guy. He’s talented and can score goals. Hopefully he can bring some energy, score a couple of goals and fit in with the guys.
* The rooster shirt we put away for the last little while with everything that has been going on. It was a shirt Andrew Ference got with a rooster on it that the player of the game got to wear postgame. I’m sure it will make an appearance again soon.
* We traded for Jaromir Jagr at the deadline. He’s awesome. He’s a great guy on and off the ice. I was excited because he’s one of the best players to ever play the game. To have the opportunity to play with him, it’s an honor.
I have got to say the first time I played with Jagr was nerve-wracking. I didn’t know what to do. Every time I saw him, I wanted to give him the puck and let him do his thing. He’s a very nice guy. He talks a lot and makes it very comfortable. It’s been fun.
I know I’ve only played with him for a short time, but I’ve already learned a lot from him. He’s always speaking to the guys trying to help them out. He talks a lot about what he sees on the ice. Obviously you respect that as he’s been in the league for so long and is such a great player. He talks about how to support guys, different little plays and how to read off of him. It’s definitely interesting any time you get to talk to him.
I haven’t yet, but I plan on asking him for some autographs. I’m sure he gets hounded all the time, but I will hit him up a couple of times. I’m not sure, but I imagine one or two guys already have asked him. I don’t want to be the first, but I won’t mind being the last.
You probably have seen the photo of a young Milan Lucic with Jagr. I definitely saw it. We were all laughing about it. It just shows how long Jagr has been in the league. He’s one of those guys that we looked up to when we were younger. It’s funny how we get to play with him now. It’s pretty cool for all of us.
I haven’t taken a look back on my own season that I’ve had yet. I consider this another stepping stone. You want to get better every year. Hopefully we can have a long run in the playoffs and I won’t have to look back on the season for a while. Coming into the season, I wasn’t sure what to expect coming off the lockout. I didn’t skate a ton during the lockout or play overseas. I didn’t know what to expect, but I’m happy with how things have gone. [Editor’s note: Marchand has a team-high 18 goals.]. Tyler [Seguin] and I always have a friendly competition over who will score the most goals. It’s not as tight this year as the last couple of years, but we’re still trying to help each other out.
With everything that has happened in Boston, we appreciate and are so thankful for all the support we get. To be part of this city is a huge honor. We take a ton of pride in it. I don’t think any guy on this team would prefer to be any other place than here. The fact that you can see the character in the city and how great people are when something like this happens with how everyone comes together, it just makes being here so much more special. We’re all very thankful to be here.