Nova Scotia

'Little ball of hate' Brad Marchand has a soft side. Seriously

In 1886, Robert Louis Stevenson penned The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. More than 130 years later, the book somewhat describes the NHL career of Brad Marchand of Hammonds Plains, N.S.

NHL star from Nova Scotia known for on-ice antics, but has embraced Boston community

NHL star Brad Marchand has become known in the Boston area for his goodwill efforts. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

In 1886, Robert Louis Stevenson penned The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. More than 130 years later, the book somewhat describes the NHL career of Brad Marchand of Hammonds Plains, N.S.

The evil Mr. Hyde translates into Marchand's six suspensions totalling 19 games and fines adding up to $24,500 over the course of his 10 years in the league.

The infractions against the Boston Bruins star have included spearing, slew footing (kicking another player's legs out from behind) and the unforgettable lick to the face of Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ryan Callaghan.

The Brad Marchand licking controversy during the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs was one of the most talked about moments of the year. (NHL/Sportsnet)

But as Marchand comes off his best-ever regular season (one that was also discipline-free) and prepares for the playoffs, another side has emerged — the Brad Marchand who has become well known for his many good deeds in the city of Boston.

A prime example of the Dr. Jekyll came last month. He caught wind of a Bruins fan who uses a wheelchair and was unable to get down to the glass to see the team up close during pre-game warmup.

Jillian Murphy and Marchand connected on Twitter.

"I actually didn't expect him to respond but he did," said Murphy, who was invited by Marchand into the Bruins dressing room following the March 5 game.

Jillian Murphy with Marchand inside the Bruins dressing room. (Jillian Murphy/Twitter)

Murphy said she's received tickets from Marchand to recent Bruins games, and getting to meet the team was a big thrill.

"That was unbelievable. He introduced me to many of the players and the coaching staff, and the tour of the dressing room was definitely not something I expected, and he gave me a signed Winter Classic jersey."

A former competitive gymnast, Murphy has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which affects connective tissues. The 29-year-old lives in Pennsylvania but has travelled to Boston dozens of times for medical procedures, including more than 35 orthopedic surgeries.

Murphy, 29, first met Marchand during a Bruins team visit to a Boston hospital back in December.

"He's so genuine and kind and generous and very down to earth and easy to talk to," said Murphy. "His off-ice persona could not be more different than his on-ice persona. He simply could not be any nicer."

Boston Bruins' Torey Krug, David Backes and Brad Marchand celebrate a goal during last year's playoffs. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Popular with his teammates, Marchand is coming off the best year of his NHL career. For the first time in his 10 years in the league he registered 100 points.

With the Bruins dealing with injuries to some of its top players this season, he's easily been the team's most valuable player.

But has the 30-year-old, known as a villain by many fans for his on-ice shenanigans, really turned a corner in his career?

Let's not forget former U.S. president Barack Obama called Marchand "the little ball of hate" when the Bruins visited the White House after winning the Stanley Cup eight years ago.

"I guess if the president of the United States gives you a nickname, you have to stick with it," Marchand later told Sports Illustrated magazine.

Recently, he was voted by his peers as the NHL's best and worst trash talker.

While winning a trash talk award isn't exactly a career highlight, it's been over a year since Marchand last got into any trouble with the NHL. He was suspended five games in January 2018 for a nasty elbow to the head of New Jersey forward Marcus Johansson.

Marchand will likely never win a Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, given annually to the NHL player who best displays good sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct.

But what most hockey fans don't know is Marchand spends a lot of time working with the Bruins community relations department on goodwill efforts.

While he isn't afraid to take on people who troll him online, he uses his Twitter and Instagram accounts to promote lots of good causes, including many back home in the Maritimes.

Two weeks ago he gave out a shout to his old minor hockey system, known as TASA, and the Peewee AAA TASA Ducks before they went off to provincials.

"Brad obviously took the time to wish the boys good luck," said Ducks head coach Ryan Backman. "They're all at that age where they are getting into social media and seeing somebody of that stature in the NHL reach out to them is pretty special."

Marchand is followed on Twitter by 164,000 people. He became an Instagrammer only a month ago and already has 174,000 followers.

Marchand's Bruins open the Stanley Cup playoffs Thursday night against Toronto and he desperately wants to win another cup.

In 2011, he scored 11 goals in the playoffs, including two in Game 7 in Vancouver to clinch the championship.

Marchand sent out a tweet to the TASA Ducks Peewee AAA team. (Submitted by Ryan Backman)

A two-time world junior hockey champion, he also won gold for Canada at the 2016 IIHF World Hockey Championship where he scored the winning goal at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

In that tournament he had eight points in just six games playing on a line with another Nova Scotia superstar, Sidney Crosby.

Crosby also reached the 100-point mark this season while a third Nova Scotian, Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche, registered 99 points.

The three stars often play pickup hockey together in the off season.