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NHL Winter Classic

Marchand trying to stay on best behavior to play in 2019 Winter Classic

Boston forward disappointed family, friends with suspension from 2016 outdoor game

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / Staff Writer

BOSTON -- When Brad Marchand's mother, Lynn, starts in, his finger might slip toward the "end call" button on his phone.

He doesn't want to hear it, not really, even though he knows her anxiety is warranted. After all, she was part of the large group of family members who had traveled to Boston for the 2016 NHL Winter Classic to watch Marchand play against the Montreal Canadiens at Gillette Stadium, only to be left with tickets for a game in which her son wasn't allowed to take the ice, due to suspension.

"They were all pretty disappointed," he said. "Kind of ruined the trip. It was tough."

It's a subject that remains a sore spot, even three years later, as Marchand prepares to play in the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic against the Chicago Blackhawks at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana, on Jan. 1 (1 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVAS). But not so sore that he can't joke about it.

Sitting down for an interview Dec. 16, Marchand quipped, "I might (get a) phantom injury for the next two weeks."

Some might argue it's the only way to truly ensure Marchand plays in the game. He wouldn't necessarily disagree.

Underneath the jokes and the deflections, it's clear that what happened before the 2016 Winter Classic was painful for Marchand. On Dec. 30, 2015, two days before the game, the NHL Department of Player Safety suspended Marchand for three games for clipping Mark Borowiecki of the Ottawa Senators on Dec. 29, calling it a "late, low hit."

Video: NSH@BOS: Bruins go tic-tac-toe for Marchand's PPG

It was his fourth NHL suspension. He has been suspended twice more since.

"That one hurt pretty bad," Marchand said of the Borowiecki suspension. "I had a lot of people in town for [the Winter Classic]. I was really looking forward to being at Gillette, all the things leading up to it and the hype. And the game before I make a mistake like that.

"To miss such a big event, potentially a once-in-a-lifetime thing, I was pretty upset about it. I never thought that I'd have another opportunity to play. So I'm really looking forward to this one. I don't want to play until that game so I don't do anything to miss it this time."

For someone who grew up in Canada playing on backyard and outdoor rinks, Marchand always had hoped to play outside in the NHL. There was, he said, nothing better than that feeling of being in the elements, on bumpy, lumpy ice, playing through rain or snow, narrowly avoiding broken ankles, having a ball.

As his father, Kevin, recalled a few weeks before the 2016 Winter Classic, "Every year I would always make ice in the yard or on the lake, depending on where we lived. I would always have ice in the backyard. That way whenever the weather would permit, they would be out there shooting pucks on the real ice, skating, working on their balance, things like that.

"The boys loved the outdoors with the ice, playing hockey. And you can't get a [more fun] atmosphere than out on the lakes. … That's why when you look at the Winter Classic coming up, outdoor game, I'm really, really excited for Brad to participate in this outdoor experience there."

Marchand had missed playing for the Bruins in the 2010 Winter Classic at Fenway Park after being sent to Providence of the American Hockey League on Nov. 20, 2009, and then getting injured. The Bruins called him up March 5, 2010, and he's been in the NHL ever since.

It wasn't easy to go back to playing in the AHL during the 2009-10 season, but when the season started he hadn't counted on making it to Fenway. He was a rookie, things were uncertain and his expectations were measured.

Video: BOS@MTL: Marchand pots easy wrister for a PPG

It was different in 2016.

"That was definitely something that hurt him a lot," center Patrice Bergeron said. "I remember he was really shook by it and disappointed in himself, basically. He took full responsibility. He took the blame for it, assumed the consequences, but that was definitely hard."

For him and for the Bruins.

Already missing injured center David Krejci, the Bruins lost 5-1 to the Montreal Canadiens.

"We all know the result," Bergeron said. "That was a tough game. We definitely could have used him.

"He's so big for our team that you need him on the ice and he knows that. But he's been learning a lot and obviously the Winter Classic was an eye-opener."

Marchand has made a career of playing on the edge, including a pair of incidents during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs in which he licked opponents. Neither led to supplemental discipline but did earn him a rebuke from the League and resulted in a rather contrite Marchand at season's end.

"I'm not going to say I've been perfect by any means, I think I've doubled my penalty minutes from last year," he said of going from 63 in 68 games last season to 78 through 37 games this season. "There's definitely still areas where I can improve. There always will be. But I'm not going to say that I'm not trying to pay attention to it because I am. But I'm not going to say I'm going to be perfect this year either."

Marchand, who has 41 points (12 goals, 29 assists) in 37 games this season, knows better than to guarantee that. Or anything, including that his parents will get to watch him play in the 2019 Winter Classic. The Bruins have two games before they go outside, against the New Jersey Devils at TD Garden on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; SN360, SNE, SNO, NESN, MSG+, NHL.TV) and against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center on Saturday.

Marchand again has a contingent of family traveling to watch him play outdoors, though smaller than last time. Still, his parents will be there, as well as his in-laws, his wife and kids, his sister and her boyfriend, plus some friends.

"Not as many this time," Marchand said. "I think they're playing it a little safe."

They do know him after all.

But there is good news for Lynn Marchand.

"I just told her, hopefully she doesn't have to worry about that," Marchand said. "I'll refund her ticket if it does."

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