BOSTON - When Brad Marchand last hit the ice at Warrior Ice Arena during the first week of September, his life was just a bit different.
At that time, he was a player with one year remaining on his Bruins contract. He was a player still trying to solidify himself as one of the NHL's best wingers. And he was a player disliked - OK, maybe loathed - by the vast majority of Canadian hockey fans.
But when Marchand returned to Brighton on Monday to make his Bruins Training Camp debut, that all had changed quite drastically.
Over the last two weeks, Marchand has signed an eight-year, $49 million contract with the Bruins, while also bursting onto the worldwide hockey scene with what some outside of Boston would call a career-defining performance at the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto.
While representing Canada during the two-week tournament, the 28-year-old teamed up with Bruins linemate Patrice Bergeron and Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby to form one the fiercest trios the World Cup had to offer.
Marchand led the tournament with five goals and finished second behind Crosby with eight points. Not to mention…he potted the Cup-clinching goal with 43 seconds to go in Game 2 of the Final.
"Just having the opportunity to play at that level was a huge honor," Marchand said following practice Monday morning. "Going into that tournament, I didn't know where I was going to be in the lineup - and it didn't matter. I just wanted to be a part of that team and enjoy everything that went with it.
"Playing with Bergy and Sid was a huge opportunity. They're two of the best players in the world, very dominant at every level. You saw that again in this tournament."
His emergence on such a grand stage has no doubt enhanced his reputation around the NHL. After years of being considered an agitator with a solid scoring touch, Marchand's talent and skill are the parts of his game beginning to take center stage.
The fans North of the border, many of whom root for Bruins rivals Toronto and Montreal, quickly took notice as Marchand paced the Canadians to victory.
"It was funny. I knew before [the tournament], every time my name was announced I was going to get some boos," said Marchand. "I think that comes with the territory when you're playing in an opposing team's arena and you're not a very well-liked guy. You know it's coming.
"But I think once Canada started to realize we're all on the same team during that tournament, they might have changed their feelings a little bit, but I have no doubt when we go back there with the Bruins jersey on that the boos are going to be back."
While fans abroad are just beginning to realize the all-around game Marchand possesses, the Bruins faithful has long seen the skill and scoring ability. The Nova Scotia native has tallied 20-plus goals in every full season he's spent in Boston (he scored 18 in the lockout-shortended 2012-13 campaign) and notched two goals in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
Last season, however, was truly a breakout year, as the 5-foot-9, 181-pound winger tallied a career-high 37 goals and 60 points in 77 games.
"Well I've had a real close vantage point…had a lot of great talks about understanding where the line was and as that type of player to cross it and get back over," Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney said during a press conference after Marchand's extension was announced late last month.
"He's grown up a lot and he considers, as I heard him say, Boston like his second home. He's got a family now. He's a leader; he wants to be part of our core group and be a leader on and off the ice."
Marchand acknowledged he may have left some money on the table by not hitting the open market after this season. But to him, it was not about the dollar figure, but rather the foundation he has built in Boston, the city he has come to admire so much.
"I think if you look at the things that matter most to the team and to myself, I wanted the term to be here," said Marchand, who is entering his eighth season with the Bruins.
"I wanted to be here as long as I can and play as long as I can. I don't think, at the end of the day, that I'm more concerned about the overall dollar value as I am about being a part of this team for a long time.
"Both sides know that we have a good thing going for the next number of years. I'm not disappointed by any means, I'm very, very excited - ecstatic - to have this contract and for them to put their faith in me and really prove that."
Bergeron, his longtime linemate and friend, has had an up-close look at Marchand's growth and progression, and thus was not surprised when the extension was announced.
"It was well deserved," said Bergeron. "He just carried over what he [did] last year…he was amazing [at the World Cup]. Even after he signed that deal, he kept scoring some huge goals and gave us that game-winner in the finals.
"That's just who he is. He steps up in big moments and it was just great to see."
The plan - for both Marchand and the Bruins - is for those big moments to continue for a long time.
Retiring a Bruin "was always something that I'd expressed to them. They told me that I'd have the opportunity to do it. Obviously things have to line up still," said Marchand.
"In this game, I don't think anyone's safe at any point in time. But to have the opportunity to retire here would be a dream come true. There's very few guys that play for one team their whole careers, nowadays, especially in the cap era it's a lot tougher.
"There's still a long ways to go - there's nine years left - but hopefully I do get to that point."