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Marchand Makes A Dream Come True

Winger sets up experience of a lifetime for young patient

by Eric Russo @NHLBruins /

BOSTON - Brad Marchand can dish out a chirp as well as anyone.

Whether it's on the ice, through social media, or in person, he has little trouble throwing some shade. But Marchand may have met his match.

Jillian Murphy, who suffers from a genetic connective tissue disorder called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, first met Marchand during the team's annual holiday hospital visit in mid-December.

It was then that Murphy, 28, fired the first shot.

"[Zdeno] Chara had asked me how I'd liked the game the night before they came to visit me, and they all played not great," said Murphy, referring to Boston's 4-3 win over Arizona. "They were turning the puck over, so I said I didn't like the turnovers. And when [Marchand] left the room that day he said, 'I'm going to think of you yelling at me on TV when I turn the puck over.'"

Knowing that she'd be in attendance for last Tuesday's game against Carolina, Murphy made sure to remind Marchand of her disdain for sloppy puck play with a tweet a few nights before.

"No turnovers while I'm at the game on Tuesday against Carolina alright @Bmarch63?"

And thus began an experience of a lifetime.

Marchand responded a few hours later asking if Murphy would come say hello. When Murphy asked how she would be able to do that, a Twitter follower suggested she go down to the glass during warmups. Unfortunately, Murphy's condition requires her to be in a wheelchair, making a trip down to the glass impossible.

But Marchand had other ideas. The B's leading scorer made sure that Murphy - in town for more appointments at Boston Children's Hospital - and her family would be allowed down to the locker room following the game.

"I was getting ready to go to bed and I was checking my notifications. I see his name pop up, and I was like this has to be a joke," said Murphy. "There's no way he saw my tweet. And I was shocked…really excited because it seemed like he remembered me from the hospital visit.

"And then he sent me a message following up saying he was going to leave passes for me and then invited me to [Thursday's] game with passes. And so it kind of just grew from there.

"He's amazing. He's been so generous, like above and beyond what I could have ever imagined."

Following Tuesday's win over Carolina, Murphy visited the dressing room and met with nearly the entire Bruins roster. Marchand and his wife, Katrina, also provided Murphy with tickets for the final two games of the homestand against Florida and Ottawa, as well as some signed Winter Classic jerseys.

"She had such a great personality when we were there [at the hospital]," said Marchand, who also invited Murphy down to the room after Boston's thrilling comeback wins over Florida and Ottawa. "Spent a little bit of time with her [following the games] and she was just awesome to be around, very talkative, loves the Bruins…she was talking the entire time and kind of carrying the conversation and had so much to say."

That is until her other favorite Bruin arrived to say hello.

"And then when [Patrice Bergeron] came out, she was speechless and she couldn't say anything," said Marchand. "You just saw her jaw drop. It was really funny to see, so we gave her a bunch of heat for that after he left. It was awesome to spend some time with her."

Murphy's Black & Gold fandom dates back to the Bruins' Stanley Cup championship run in 2011. Murphy now lives in Pennsylvania - "Flyers territory" as she called it - but was born into a Boston sports-crazed family in Connecticut.

After being diagnosed with EDS in 2009, Murphy - a former gymnast - traveled to Boston for countless surgeries, including one in May 2011. The timing happened to coincide with Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against Philadelphia, so Murphy and her father - a Boston native - made the trip to TD Garden.

The Bruins scored two goals in the first 1:03 (Zdeno Chara and David Krejci) en route to a 5-1 victory that extended their series lead to 3-0 and secured a fan for life.

"It was so intense, and I was hooked from that moment on," said Murphy, whose wheelchair is decked out in black and gold. "That was unreal, and I was actually in Boston for Game 7 [of the Stanley Cup Final]. Of course, they won in Vancouver."

That the Bruins did. And it was Bergeron and Marchand - her two favorite players - leading the way with two goals apiece in that 4-0, Cup-clinching victory.

"My dad bought me a Bergeron shirt and was like, 'This is who you will follow,'" said Murphy. "And basically since that season Marchy's been playing with Bergy. It was easy to just follow both of them."

Needless to say, the opportunity to spend time with both of them during the home stand was an experience she won't forget.

"Oh my gosh. That was unbelievable," said Murphy. "Everyone was so nice. Every player came up and said hi. I never expected to meet an NHL player, but it was amazing. I mean, this is still almost like a dream, the fact that I'm meeting everyone and that they invited me to come back. It's been really special."

And not just for Murphy.

"It really hits home when you hear people's stories and hear what they go through," said Marchand. "We're fortunate to do the things that we're doing for a living, to play a game that we love, to be in a position to help people at different times. It makes me happy to see people enjoy these moments."

To learn more about Murphy's story, visit her blog:

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