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Marsh's marathon bike ride pointing toward Ottawa

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Former Sens defenceman Brad Marsh cycles alongside Lake Superior as he 90 Day Challenge bike ride makes its way through northern Ontario. He is due to arrive in Ottawa, his current hometown, on Monday.

Brad Marsh admits he needs a little help keeping track of the kilometres.

"Somebody asked me that the other day," the former Ottawa Senators blueliner said when asked exactly how many kilometres he's put on his bike to date during his coast-to-coast 90 Day Challenge. "We've got our log and I've got to sit down with a calculator and add them all up.

"I don't know if we've reached the actual halfway mark, but it feels like we're in the home stretch now. We're in my home province."

Indeed, Marsh's marathon journey — which kicked off almost exactly a month ago in Vancouver — seems much, much closer to the finish line. He reached his birthplace of London, Ont., on Sunday, and is slated to roll into Ottawa, the city he currently calls home, on Monday afternoon. It has been quite the odyssey already.

"It's been tremendous," Marsh, 54, said in a radio interview with CFRA 580 earlier this week, as he pushed closer to the nation's capital. "We started April 25 in the rain in Vancouver, but it was like kids at Christmas time — we were so excited to get going that it really didn't matter. We've just had a wonderful time meeting all kind of people at the Boys and Girls Club and at the places we've stayed. It's just been a tremendous time."

The Boys and Girls Club, which Marsh and the Sens Alumni ardently support in Ottawa, has been his driving force throughout this odyssey. Accompanied by his 26-year-old son, Erik, he's joined kids at such clubs for ball hockey games in every place he's visited along the way. He fondly recalled one youngster who took part in one of those games at a Boys and Girls Club in Kamloops, B.C.

"This little guy never stopped running the whole time," Marsh told the Kingston Whig-Standard (his ride reaches that Ontario city on Sunday). "He never gave up but no matter how hard he tried, he never scored. We'd set him up and he'd either shoot wide or have his shot blocked or saved by the goalie.

"Finally, he buries one and it's like his own little Stanley Cup. That goal, our reaction, meant the world to him. That kid has likely never been recognized for anything, but he sure felt recognition that day."

And that, Marsh will tell you, speaks to the power of the Boys and Girls Club, a favourite charity of his, but one he's learned "flies under the radar" in many places across Canada.

"Myself and the Sens Alumni, we do a heck of a lot with Scott Bradford and the Ottawa Boys and Girls Club ... it's an unbelievable club," Marsh told CFRA. "I just assumed it had the same profile across the country and Scott, who's the executive director, was telling me that 'no, it actually flies under the radar.' Then I talked to the Boys and Girls Club of Canada and they were saying that's one of their main goals, to raise the profile.

"So that's how the idea of the ride came up and it's just such a wonderful charity. We're trying to raise the profile and we're trying to raise the bar, so that more and more people know about the club. It's surprising, going into towns and talking to some of my friends who live in their respective towns, and they've never even heard of the club. They don't even know what it does and they didn't even know it existed.

"Basically, in a nutshell, it just provides the kids with a safe environment to just be kids. A safe environment to continue to learn and to do their homework and to grow into the leaders of tomorrow. Unfortunately, it's a scary place out there and some kids aren't getting that opportunity ... so the club is very important to the growth of those kids."

Marsh, who'll talk about his ride with TSN's Michael Landsberg on Off The Record tonight (5 p.m., repeats at 6:30 p.m. on TSN2), is expected to reach Ottawa by mid-afternoon on Monday, visiting Scotiabank Place first, then heading off to the Britannia unit of the Boys and Girls Club. By the time he's done — Marsh is aiming to reach St. John's, N.L., on the weekend of July 7-8 — he'll have travelled 7,248 kilometres.

To support the ride and its charity, visit his Facebook page, where donations now are being accepted. The 90 Day Challenge is aiming to raise $500,000 to support Boys and Girls Clubs.

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