By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — During Team Canada’s run to the championship at the World Cup of Hockey 2016, Bruins center Patrice Bergeron saw his Boston and Team Canada linemate Brad Marchand change the opinion of an entire nation with his performance.
“He’s definitely doing well, though. It’s well-deserved, especially in Canada actually,” Bergeron said after his first day back on the ice with the Bruins at Warrior Ice Arena on Monday. “It’s pretty funny to see the fans in Ottawa booing him the first exhibition game. And then that last game in Toronto he was getting a standing ovation basically. So it was a big change.”
Marchand earned all the love he received by scoring five goals, including the shorthanded game-winner in the decisive second game of the best-of-three finals against Team Europe, in six games. The line of Marchand, Bergeron and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby carried Team Canada across the finish line and Marchand wrote his name into Canadian lore alongside Paul Henderson, Darryl Sittler and others.
But now it’s back to the real world. Marchand also rejoined the Bruins for practice Monday. He’s not only riding the high of the World Cup win but also celebrating the eight-year, $49 million contract he signed with the Bruins. He now has nine more seasons in Boston if all goes according to plan.
That means he has nine more years to attempt to beat his career-best 37 goals he scored last season. Nine more years to try to recapture another Stanley Cup championship. And nine more years to grind on opponents, talk trash and score more clutch goals to turn those cheers from the crowd back to boos and make his Team Canada teammates hate him again.
“A number of the guys I knew at one point or another,” Marchand said. “If you look around that room, there are plenty of guys that fought and played together before that. When it comes to being with your own team, especially in playoff time, you know what you’re playing for and you understand that we’re doing a job out here and friendships are put aside. You’re expected to do what you’re paid to do. We all laugh about it after, so I’m sure we’ll have no problem getting into it at some point. Some more than others but friendships will always be there.”
The key to success for Marchand is always to play close to the discipline line without going over it. There’s another line in play now that Marchand has been signed for so much money and term. He has to avoid getting a big head. A certain amount of cockiness has helped the 5-foot-9, 181-pound left wing overcome obstacles in his career. And he’s improved practically every season in the pros, despite winning the Cup as a rookie in 2011 and scoring 28 goals the next season.
Marchand’s track record is one of a player that doesn’t become satisfied. That’s part of the reason the Bruins were willing to sign him for eight years, the longest term a player can re-sign with his club. The Bruins also have to like Marchand’s attitude about not trying to max out the dollars on the contract and doing what he could to make sure he would stay in Boston for the long haul.
“I wanted to be here as long as I can and play as long as I possibly can. And that’s where I think the eighth year kind of came in for myself and, for the team, allowed a lower cap hit,” he said. “But I don’t think at the end of the day I was as concerned about the overall dollar value as I am about being part of this team for a long time.”
Marchand went on to explain how he didn’t want his contract talks to loom over him and the team this season.
“I just remember watching Loui [Eriksson] last year and what we all had to deal with answering questions all the time and the uncertainty about him being around this year,” Marchand said. “It’s a lot to weigh on the players and the minds of everyone and yourself and the management, where instead of focusing on individual players and where they’re going to be, more about the team stuff and what we needed to do to win.”
Initially it looked like Marchand’s contract was coming to an end at the worst possible time. Not only did he erupt last season but he became an icon for Canada and forged chemistry with Crosby. The rumors, mostly wishful thinking from the Canadian media, began to swirl that Marchand would find his way to Pittsburgh. Marchand and Bergeron both got a chuckle out of the speculation. They were both confident Marchand would stay in Boston.
Now the Bruins don’t have to worry about distractions and they get the benefit of a player overflowing with confidence after shining as one of the brightest stars in one of the biggest tournaments in terms of talent level ever. Marchand believes his World Cup momentum can continue, and there’s no reason to doubt him.
“It’s such a high pace, I mean you can’t duplicate that. To come back, I think the guys that played in that tournament will have another step on the season,” Marchand said. “And I think that’s where it’s going to benefit us. I know personally it always takes me five or six games, sometimes 10, one year 30, to get into things and so I think it’ll just help a little bit starting the year off.”
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.