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Brad Marchand unsure what to expect in Toronto return

Bruins forward back at Air Canada Centre, where he scored World Cup winner for Team Canada, to play Maple Leafs

by Amalie Benjamin / Staff Writer

BOSTON -- It was after Brad Marchand's shorthanded shot beat Jaroslav Halak with 43.1 seconds left in the third period Game 2 of the World Cup of Hockey 2016 championship series to help Team Canada defeat Team Europe that the crowd at Air Canada Centre in Toronto erupted. The fans sprang to their feet, their hands in the air, the noise enveloping Marchand and his teammates as they celebrated the game-winning goal in an eventual 2-1 victory.

The fans were cheering for them. They were cheering for him.

Marchand does not expect a similar welcome when his Boston Bruins play the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, NESN, NHL.TV).

As the leading goal-scorer during the World Cup (five), Marchand was embraced by fans of Team Canada in Toronto during the run to the championship. He was, for once, one of their own, as opposed to one of the Bruins, one of those players that hockey fans love to hate.

Will the cheering stop?

"I was kind of wondering that a bit," Marchand said earlier in the week. "But I don't think it'll change a whole lot. Just because I think fans normally jump on board with their team. They were excited about the World Cup at the time and cheering for Team Canada.

"But going back with a different team; I don't think I'll be liked very much there, which is expected in most arenas, so I'm not too upset about it."

He's not alone in thinking that way. Asked whether Marchand might receive a different reception than he usually gets, Bruins president Cam Neely laughed and said, "I don't know about that. That memory will probably be long gone by the time he gets into Toronto on Saturday."

It was, in a way, just as strange for Marchand to hear the cheers as it was for the crowd to cheer.

"At the start I was getting booed," he said. "But toward the end it was a little bit better. I was a little surprised every game [to hear] more and more cheers. But I think that comes with the excitement of the fans, cheering for [Team] Canada, being in the finals and stuff. I think it was more just about that. Very short memory."

That, in the end, is the opposite of the way Marchand feels about the World Cup, about his experience with Team Canada and with the tournament. It had long been a dream of his to participate in a major event for Canada, something he started to believe could become a reality when he was invited to an orientation camp for Canada for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, that was held in Calgary in 2013.

Video: BOS@CBJ: Marchand shows off moves for second goal

Marchand didn't make that team. For the World Cup, it was different.

"That was one of the biggest moments of my whole life, to get that call to be part of that team," Marchand said. "I'll never forget how that felt. It was an incredible accomplishment and one that, in that moment, all the hours and commitments and things that I sacrificed, all kind of came out at that time.

"Just an incredible, incredible feeling. For it to end the way it did and to win and to be part of a group like that, it's something I'm very proud of and honored to be part of. Hopefully we can do it again at some point. I hope that's not the only time, but if it is, then I'll remember every second of it."

Marchand is hoping there will be more times and more cheering for him, that he could have a chance to make the roster for Canada at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, that those fans will have no choice but to root for him again. The NHL has not yet decided whether its players will participate in that Olympics.

"Obviously I have to play well and I have to do my part," he said. "Things have to line up to be part of that team. I just hope they don't take that opportunity away from us. Every guy that I've talked to would love to have that opportunity to go, and I don't think there's one guy who's ever said that they don't want to go to the Olympics. That's a dream and something that very few people get to realize.

"I never thought that I'd ever have the opportunity to potentially be there. And now that it could potentially be realistic, then it makes me hope that the NHL goes that much more. And if I'm not, I still hope that the NHL goes for other guys. I don't think that anyone should have to miss an opportunity to get to the Olympics. It's such an incredible thing and there's so much honor that goes into it."

For now, that is out of his hands and all that matters is the game ahead, when the Bruins play the Maple Leafs for the first time this season.

It will be like the 14 previous times he has played against the Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre as a member of the Bruins. He has four goals in those 14 games, none of which brought a fraction of the response he got to his most recent goal there. None of which yielded adoring fans, or cheers raining down.

"Hopefully not everyone boos," Marchand said. "Hopefully I hear one cheer, but time will tell."

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