NHL gives Brad Marchand edict to stop licking opponents

After his second incident of the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs, the NHL has issued a "cease and don't lick" edict to Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand.

Senior vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell spoke to Marchand and Bruins general manager Don Sweeney on Saturday about Marchand's actions against Tampa Bay a night earlier.

In Game 4 between the Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night, Marchand hit forward Ryan Callahan with a low-bridge check in the second period. Callahan later shoved Marchand's face and Marchand responded by sticking out his tongue and licking Callahan.

"Well, he punched me four times in the face, so, you know, he just kept getting close," Marchand said regarding the incident.

The league says Marchand has been put on notice that his actions are unacceptable and that similar behavior in the future will be dealt with through supplemental discipline. Marchand could be fined or suspended by the NHL if he continues to lick players.

It was the second time in this postseason Marchand licked the face of an opponent. In Game 1 of the Bruins' opening-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Marchand licked the face of Leafs forward Leo Komarov, after having previously kissed him on the cheek during a regular-season game.

"I thought he wanted to cuddle. I just wanted to get close to him," Marchand said after the Komarov incident. "He keeps trying to get close to me. I don't know if he's got a thing for me or what. He's cute."

The NHL allegedly told the supervisor of officiating for that series to communicate its displeasure to Marchand after that incident, but both Daly and Marchand denied he was warned.

This time, however, Marchand has gone a lap too far.

"I hope the league looks at it," Callahan said after the Lightning's 4-3 overtime win. "I don't know if there is discipline for spitting in someone's face. But for me, it's worse, if not the same."

Marchand wasn't penalized for either postseason lick, nor was he given any supplemental discipline from the NHL.

The broadly drawn "gross misconduct" penalty in the NHL would have covered such incidents, but it was taken out of the rule book in 2006 having been seen as redundant, since the NHL also had unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on the book. Rule 75 in the NHL covers misconduct penalties, and includes language for a minor penalty ("any player who uses obscene gestures on the ice or anywhere in the rink before, during or after the game") and for a game misconduct ("any player who persists in any course of conduct, including threatening or abusive language or gestures or similar actions, designed to incite an opponent into incurring a penalty") that could be applied to Marchand's chosen form of agitation.

The latest licking incident was the talk of the league on Saturday, for current and former players.

"I saw it. I don't really get it. I know he's trying to get into an opponent's head," said Penguins center Riley Sheahan. "It's weird to me."

Washington Capitals center Jay Beagle was asked if he ever considered licking another player. "Nope. Never. I'm a germaphobe," he said.

Former NHL player Brandon Prust, who was once fined $5,000 for a spearing incident with Marchand, tweeted:

Game 5 between the Lightning and the Bruins is Sunday afternoon in Tampa Bay. Coach Jon Cooper hoped that Marchand's face wash on Callahan were his last licks.

"There is absolutely no place in our game for that. I don't get it. I don't understand it," said the Lightning coach. "How would you feel if I walked over to you right now and gave you one big lick from the chin up?"

Additional reporting by ESPN's Emily Kaplan.