Boston Bruins' Brad Marchand: There's 'no question' that players would accept a gay teammate

Brad Marchand has been the subject of much vitriol from opposing fans, but the Bruins winger, now in his eighth season in the league, has found perspective off the ice. James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

After 500 career games, fans and opponents around the league know exactly the type of player Boston Bruins left winger Brad Marchand is on the ice. He's a competitor. He's a pest. He has the ability to relentlessly aggravate whoever he's facing.

Marchand, 28, is also one of the better two-way players in the league. He won a Stanley Cup with Boston in 2011 and the World Cup of Hockey with Team Canada last fall. This season, he has 11 points in his past six games, as the Bruins keep pace in the Atlantic Division playoff hunt.

But who is Brad Marchand off the ice?

He recently showed fans a bit of his personality and beliefs when he stood up to a Twitter user who attacked him with a homophobic slur -- a tweet that has has since been deleted. Marchand responded on Twitter: "This derogatory statement is offensive to so many people around the world, [you're] the kind of kid parents are ashamed of."

There's no doubt Marchand has matured since his rookie season in 2009-10. He does more for the community, especially for military families, than many people know. ESPN.com recently spoke with Marchand about some non-hockey related topics that matter to him.

ESPN.com: How much have you changed off the ice during your career?

Brad Marchand: A little bit. I think it comes with age and maturity, a big part of it. I haven't changed a ton. I think it's more that my priorities have changed. I understand what I want more and what I've achieved getting to the NHL, which was always my goal. Once I got there, I kind of had to figure out what the next step was. Growing up, your whole goal and dream is to make the NHL. Once you get there, you kind of have to expand your goals on and off the ice. It took a little bit of time for me to do that, but again, with age and maturity you understand what you want more and how to achieve those things.

ESPN.com: Why is it important to you to do work in the community, in some cases without anyone knowing it?

Marchand: [Players] are in a position where we can do certain things and use our name to help others. It's always good to give, and it's something we all enjoy doing. A lot of guys do things [anonymously] that other people don't know about because [getting attention is] not what it's about. It's about helping families, or people, or different organizations and charities, and that's what you're doing it for. You're not doing it for the credit.

ESPN.com: You were lauded by people in the LGBT community because of the tweet. What does that mean to you?

Marchand: I want to stand up for what I believe in, and I don't think it's right when people say things or bash people because of their sexual orientation. I have friends who are in gay relationships, and I don't think it's right for people to be against that. Everyone is allowed to find love whatever way that is, so I felt like that was a time to say something, especially nowadays. We're in 2017, and things are a lot different than they were 100 years ago. We're all evolving to be equal, and that's the way things should be.

ESPN.com: How accepting will players be when a professional hockey player comes out?

Marchand: Guys would accept that, no question. We're a team in the [dressing] room and a family. It doesn't matter what different beliefs guys have, or where they come from, or whatever the case may be. Guys would accept it. Again, in the room we're a family. That's the way it is on a hockey team, and that's the way it will always be.

ESPN.com: How close do you think that is from happening?

Marchand: I have no idea. It's bound to happen at some point, and when it does, it will be accepted.

ESPN.com: When did you start appreciating the military and first responders? (In August 2015, a soldier from Rhode Island was killed in action in Kabul, Afghanistan. Marchand attended the services but did not want any public attention for the gesture.)

Marchand: Growing up, I had military members in my family. Both my grandfathers were in the Navy, and I have cousins and uncles in the military, so it's something that I've always respected. The older we get, the more we understand. I have tremendous respect for those men and women and what they're willing to sacrifice and what they go through. I know I wouldn't be able to do that, so I respect those men and women tremendously.