If someone told you five years ago that there is mutual respect between Boston Bruins winger Brad Marchand and NHL referees and linesmen, you’d likely have thought they were joking. With the licking, slew-footing, trash-talking, and walk-on-the-line style of play Marchand had become infamous for, how could Marchand be respected and liked by the guys in stripes?
“I had Brad Marchand from the day he came in the league,” former NHL referee and ESPN rules analyst Dave Jackson said on a recent edition of the Murphy’s Hockey Law Podcast. “I gotta tell you something about Brad Marchand: As many headaches as he caused us – I mean, always starting something or whatever – he was always respectful to us. I don’t think I ever had an issue with Brad Marchand. He always had a funny one-liner, and I got along great with him.”
As Brad Marchand has matured into a bonafide NHL sniper and superstar in recent years, the now 35-year-old Bruins alternate captain – and potentially new captain – can usually be seen conversing with referees between whistles and sometimes even laughing. What has really made the mutual respect grow, though, has been Marchand’s willingness to acknowledge his mistakes.
“It really does because when a player’s crossing over the line, you really don’t want to call a penalty,” Jackson replied when asked how much that helps build a rapport between a player and a referee. “My job is not to call a penalty; my job is to control the game, get in and out of there as seamlessly as possible, and keep the game safe and fair. So when you see a guy that’s crossing the line, and you have a good rapport with him, instead of just going right to the penalty, if you know you can talk to him, you go ‘Hey! You’re right on the edge man. You’re running guys just a step too late; your stick’s just an inch too high. …like settle down. I don’t want to give you a penalty’ and if you got a good rapport with the guy, they’ll thank you and move along.”
When informed of Jackson’s praise of him this past Thursday, Marchand let it be known that the feeling is mutual not just between him and Jackson but all referees.
“It’s funny right? Bet you were surprised!” Marchand quipped in an interview with Boston Hockey Now. “I think the longer you’re with them, you realize they have a very tough job to do, there’s no question. If we get heated in the moment and pipe off at them at the wrong times, it’s about having respect for them. They’re trying to do the same thing we’re doing. They love the game, and they’re doing the best they possibly can. They’re under a tremendous amount of pressure now with the video reviews and the way they can replay everything. …it’s very tough on them with the mics and stuff like that.”
The empathy from the Boston Bruins leader towards the referees went on. …
So they’re doing a great job, and I think that the guys I’ve really come to get along with, there’s a respect that if I say the wrong thing or get caught up in it with them, it’s not personal. I try to let them know, ‘I’m sorry, I just got caught up in the moment,’ and I think they understand. I get it. No one likes someone piping off at you when you’re just trying to do your job, and they’ll come back at you and put you in your place too, if you deserve it, and I’m sure they enjoy that, but I think we’ve built a mutual respect.”
If, as many believe he will be, Marchand becomes the 21st captain in Boston Bruins franchise history, his rapport with the referees will be a significant reason why.