TORONTO (Nov. 4) — It happens every year… like clockwork. The same arena; the same opponent; the same player; the same result; the same reaction. No one in the modern history of the National Hockey League has gotten under the skin of the Toronto Maple Leafs and their fans like Brad Marchand, captain of the Boston Bruins.
The latest incident took place on Thursday night at the TD Garden. It will happen again. Very soon.
Marchand is, once more, the anti–Christ of Leafs Nation after “breaking” defenseman Tim Liljegren in a race for the puck. Toronto fans (and the biased media) are infuriated that the veteran Boston forward slew–footed Liljegren while the two players went into the corner to the left of Leafs goalie Ilya Samsonov. Wes McCauley, widely considered the best NHL referee of the past decade, was right on top of the play and refused to call a penalty on Marchand. Which added to the indignation of Toronto hockey zealots. After all, McCauley has a “vendetta” against the Blue and White — not unlike countless others in the 56½ years since Toronto last played for the Stanley Cup.
The television replay from Sportsnet clearly showed Marchand placing his stick between Liljegren’s legs at the end of the chase and tripping the Leafs blueliner in a move made famous by former Toronto defenseman Bryan McCabe. The old “can opener.” It may have warranted a two–minute minor. But, McCauley, with a veteran official’s eye, undoubtedly noticed that Liljegren had crossed to the right, into Marchand’s lane, and was therefore vulnerable to the spill that caused injury and will keep the Leafs player out of action for a significant juncture. That the incident occurred within dangerous proximity of the boards was merely happenstance; the fault of neither skater.
What the scornful Toronto reaction overlooked is that Marchand is among the smartest players in the NHL. And that he knows, full well, how to toy with the forever–passive Maple Leafs. This was supposed to be a “different” team than those which have face–planted in the Stanley Cup tournament the past seven years. The additions of Ryan Reaves, Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi were to transform the Leafs into a gallant, audacious group, thereby complimenting the buttery soft Core–4. All of which likely caused Marchand to smile and sneer. The Bruins captain (he replaced the retired Patrice Bergeron) has been Toronto’s “daddy” for as long as anyone can remember. He approaches every game against the Maple Leafs understanding how to annoy his opponent; how to infuriate the denizens of Leafs Nation… and that media reaction in Toronto will be instantly frenetic. It’s all part of the complete and utter dominance by Boston since 1959, when the Leafs last upended the Bruins in a playoff series. In a bygone era, it was Wayne Cashman, Derek Sanderson, Ted Green and Johnny (Pie) McKenzie manhandling the weak–kneed Toronto skaters. Today, and for so many years, it has been Marchand. Any person that thinks Bad Brad doesn’t concoct such a scheme is out to lunch. He knows precisely how to batter and crush the Maple Leafs.
So much has been made of the TV clip that showed Marchand circling flippantly in front of the visitors’ bench, seconds after Liljegren was helped to the dressing room. As if Bad Brad had anything to worry about. Reaves was seen blabbing at Marchand while Bertuzzi just laughed and shook his head. No player with the Leafs knows Marchand as well as Bertuzzi, who skated briefly with Boston after the trade deadline last season. The two became fast friends. One can barely imagine the amusement of Tyler had Marchand licked Liljegren’s face. This infuriating dominance took hold during the trio of first–round playoff match–ups (2013–18–19) in which the Bruins eliminated the Leafs. All in Games 7. All in the Bruins’ lair. Boston has cruelly and systematically plucked the wings off the Toronto butterfly when it matters. And, even when it doesn’t — as in an early November clash.
Leafs Nation is crying about the lack of response from its gallant heroes; incredulous that defenseman John Klingberg — the biggest Toronto marshmallow of all — was the player to dump Bad Brad in the corner and excoriate him while skating away. Reaves, a big personality and a small talent, didn’t get off the bench frequently enough to discipline Marchand. The big–money boys in Blue and White predictably turned shades of white while Bad Brad mouthed off in front of them. Anyone who contends the current Maple Leafs are bolder than former iterations are dreaming vividly. This is still a team led by gifted skaters that progressively flinch and recoil when the physical component of the Stanley Cup chase materializes… then increases. Nothing will change next spring.
Brad Treliving wanted more “snot” on the roster. Instead, he acquired the same snivel.
STORMIN’ NORM BACK ON TRACK: Amid an outporing of love and support from family, friends and long–time media colleagues, my ol’ pal Stormin’ Norm Rumack is making terrific progress from a trio of suicide attempts in the past month. In fact, he returned to work today as a Concierge in the Avenue Road/St. Clair neighborhood of the city. Norm admittedly lost his way and temporarily dismissed how important he is to so many people — primarily as a good soul; secondarily among those who recall his role as the “Late Night Vampire” on Canada’s first all–sports radio station, The FAN–590. At the risk of dropping names, here are some prominent members of the fifth estate that have contacted Stormin’ Norm, either directly or via text/email: George Stroumboulopoulos, Jerry Howarth, John Iaboni, Chuck Swirsky, Paul Romanuk, Teresa Kruze, Rod Black, Joe Tilley, Jody Vance, Roger Lajoie, Rick Zamperin (Hamilton), Steve Paikin, Don Landry, Don Kollins, Eric Smith, Steve Simmons, Elliotte Friedman and Dave Perkins. There are others about whom I’m not aware. For which I apologize. Text or email me and I’ll happily add your name. Me and Perky, the old Star scribe, are taking Norm for lunch on Nov. 13.
With lots of pleasure.
Keep on truckin, Stormy. The world loves you. And, needs to know you’re safe.
NHL EXPANSION ERA MEDIA GUIDES — Part 1
More, here, in my large collection of press booklets from the National Hockey League — this batch from the era when the NHL expanded (in 1967–68) from six to 12 teams (and beyond). Media guides have not been published since roughly 2010, when clubs switched to digital info:
ORIGINAL MEDIA GUIDES OF THE EXPANSION TEAMS THAT DOUBLED THE SIZE OF THE NHL IN 1967–68. THE OAKLAND SEALS WERE ORIGINALLY THE CALIFORNIA SEALS. THE MINNESOTA NORTH STARS MOVED TO DALLAS IN 1993. ALL SIX FRANCHISES HAVE WON THE STANLEY CUP.
MEDIA GUIDES FROM THE SECOND (BUFFALO, VANCOUVER) AND THIRD (ATLANTA, NEW YORK ISLANDERS) WAVES OF NHL EXPANSION. THE ATLANTA FRANCHISE MOVED TO CALGARY FOR THE 1980–81 SEASON. NEITHER THE SABRES NOR THE CANUCKS HAVE WON THE NHL CHAMPIONSHIP.
THE NEW JERSEY DEVILS FRANCHISE BEGAN, IN 1974–75, AS THE KANSAS CITY SCOUTS BEFORE RE–LOCATING TO DENVER, TWO YEARS LATER, AS THE COLORADO ROCKIES. THE CLUB MOVED TO THE MEADOWLANDS, ACROSS THE HUDSON RIVER FROM NEW YORK, IN 1982–83.
THE CALIFORNIA/OAKLAND/CALIFORNIA GOLDEN SEALS CAREENED AMID POOR ATTENDANCE FOR NINE SEASONS (MEDIA GUIDES, ABOVE, FROM YEARS 2 TO 9) BEFORE TRANSFERING BRIEFLY TO RICHFIELD, OHIO AS THE LARGELY FORGOTTEN CLEVELAND BARONS (BELOW).