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Journeyman Joy and Hockey Happenings: 2014 Edition

January 8, 2014, 2:04 PM ET [2 Comments]
Brad Marsh
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Since my last blog en route to play in the Winter Classic Alumni game, a lot sure has happened over the last week in the world of hockey. The Winter Classic has come and gone, the World Junior Hockey Championships are over and the Men’s Olympic Hockey rosters have been released.

The Winter Classic was fantastic, no medal was won by a North American team at the world juniors, (this will send the powers-that-be scrambling to the board room to make more unnecessary changes to the game!) and the speculation about the Canadian and U.S. Olympic roster selections has given way to debate over who got left off the team. All three events captured sports headlines across Canada to kick off 2014.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, playing with 5 different franchises (Flames, Flyers, Leafs, Red Wings and the Senators) would turn out to be a blessing in disguise. When you get traded or released from a team, it goes without saying that a player goes through many different emotions.

Some guys are bitter, ticked off; the feeling of betrayal never leaves them and quite frankly they never get over it. Others jump at the opportunity, welcome the change as a challenge and they thrive on their new team. Fast-forward to the retirement years and all of the Alumni activities that take place year after year.

Playing on so many different teams gives you the opportunity to participate in all of these different events. Who says there's no advantage in being an NHL journeyman?!

The most recent Winter Classic was my third time participating in an outdoor Alumni game. I think that’s got to be a record! So far, I’ve been involved in outdoor games in Calgary, Philadelphia and the most recent one in Detroit.

Rumour has it that Toronto and Ottawa will each host an outdoor game in 2017, my goal will be to stay in shape so I can participate in those games. What a great challenge staying in shape so I can still play hockey with the guys as I approach my 60th birthday.

As I said at the beginning, the most recent Winter Classic was fabulous not only from a hockey fans standpoint but from an Alum’s as well. I played for the Leafs Alumni but I could just as easily have played for Detroit as well. I played three seasons with Toronto and two seasons with Detroit.

The whole Winter Classic Alumni Game event was great fun, with great stories and great teams but most importantly some great teammates! With the two teams, actually 4 teams because as you know there were two Alumni games, I had the pleasure of playing with, being coached by or being treated by (they also brought back the former trainers!) 43 different Alumni guys! That’s right, 43 different guys that I had the pleasure of sharing the dressing room with. Talk about a reunion! I tried to have a beer with each one of them.

There was a reception for both teams the night before and as you could imagine, this was a lot of fun, especially for me as I got to see former teammates from both teams. The night began split like the high school dance, with the Leafs Alumni on one side and the Red Wing Alumni on the other but it didn’t take long for those of us that played on both sides to start the mingling. By nights end you couldn’t tell us apart.

For most of my NHL career I had was nicknamed Marshy. In Detroit, thanks to Paul Ysebaert, I had a different nickname. Paul was one of the first of my new teammates that I met when I was trading there. Walking into the dressing room, we met.

“Hello, I’m Brad Marsh,”

“Welcome, I’m Paul Ysebaert." He paused. "Hmmmm... Brad Marsh, eh? Marsh. Swampy! Welcome to the Red Wings, Swampy!”

Going forward, all my Detroit teammates called me Swampy. Sitting at the various tables at the reception with old teammates from both teams it was quite funny, “Marshy! Remember this?” or “Swampy! How about the time we did that!”

The prep for the game was funny with everyone reverting back to their old habits, although there was not much stretching going on. I held true to one of my habits of always being one of the first at the rink so I elected to drive instead of taking the bus.

I always liked hanging out with the trainers on game day so I brought one of the trainers came with me! The dressing room, even though it was a make shift set up, was immaculate. The equipment was placed in perfect order in the individual stalls, name tags were made for each player, and the newly made jerseys were hung in each stall; I felt like I was in the big time again.

Being around my former teams always get me a little nostalgic and makes me think of some of my favourite things that happened all those years ago. Getting suited up for the Leafs reminded me of how special that first time I pulled the Maple Leafs jersey on. That first game, and even the first practice, was especially memorable because I grew up a Leafs fan.

Looking across at the Winged Wheel made me think of playing my 1000th NHL game. Another favourite Red Wings memory was meeting Steve Yzerman. I’ve had some great teammates over the years, but Steve really had an impact on me when I got to Detroit.

The whole Winter Classic experience was spectacular and it really has evolved into a special event for the Alumni. I hope I get the call again, next time I’m scoring a goal!

Now here's my take on the other big goings-on of late....


I know that in the U.S. the World Junior Hockey Championships isn’t followed that close, but up here in Canada it is front-page news. Each game draws huge TV ratings, every player, every goal for and against is scrutinized, every game win or lose is debated 24/7.

A strong tournament by a Draft-eligible player will almost certainly assure him of a very high draft selection. A bad tournament won’t ruin his career but his draft order will be greatly affected. This past year, Canada failed to medal, coming in fourth for the second year in a row, and according to the papers, it seemed as if the world was coming to an end.

The U.S., after winning gold last year, finished a very disappointing fifth. Since 1977, Canada has owned this tournament winning 15 gold, 8 silver and 5 bronze medals, so to finish out of the medals is big news up here.

I would love to be a fly on the wall at the upcoming meetings that Hockey Canada and USA Hockey will be having over the next few weeks, be ready for more changes to the game made by people that never really played the game. This debate will reach epic proportions if the US and Canada fail to medal at the Olympics.


Canada’s team has been debated since they won gold at the last Olympics in 2010. With the announcement yesterday, the debate will shift to who should’ve made the team and who shouldn’t have until after the Olympics. With only 11 players from the 2010 team, there will be considerable pressure on the 14 newbies that were selected.

I’m not going to enter the debate, simply because I don’t watch enough NHL hockey nowadays to have an educated opinion on who should have or should not have made the team.

I will say that I have the utmost respect for Steve Yzerman and his staff, Steve is one of the most dedicated athletes that I have ever met and he brings the same dedication and intensity to his job as GM of the Tampa Lightning and in this case Director of Team Canada. If Canada doesn’t medal it will not be his fault, although he will take the blame.

I’m sure every hockey fan was stunned at the way the US roster was announced because it seemed that rather than celebrating the players that were named, we were talking about the players who were not named.

While the actual announcement was a nice ceremony after the Winter Classic with the kids wearing the jerseys, things got ugly when comments made about Bobby Ryan were made public.

This fiasco was, in large part, due to the fact that USA Hockey felt the need to have the selection process documented for the American hockey fans. They invited two reporters to follow the process for the months leading up to the announcement. It is very unfortunate that one reporter chose to print the conversation or the debates about players word for word.

The Brian Burke / Bobby Ryan story line was unnecessary. Many are pointing the finger at Burkie for his comments but the finger should solely be pointed at the reporter, he crossed the line. I would venture to say that his days as a hockey reporter might be numbered as no one will ever trust him again.

Full marks for Bobby Ryan and how he handled it. His omission bodes well for Ottawa Senators fans, nothing more dangerous than a hockey player out to prove his detractors wrong! For the keyboard warrior crowd who scoffs at the idea that something like an Olympic snub provides some extra motivation, especially during the dog days of the season, let me assure you that you are mistaken.

Hockey is driven by emotion and energy but it's tough to keep those at a peak throughout the marathon-like season. There's nothing like the burning feeling of rejection and embarrassment to give you that second wind during the "dead leg" part of the season that most guys go through right about this time of year.

Final thought on all of this: The debate in both countries by the so-called experts has been largely focussed on the players that could have made it or should have made it - the bubble players or the fringe players. The hockey talent in both countries is so deep that you could easily replace 10 of these players with the top ten players that did not make it and the outcome would probably be the same.

The success of Team Canada or Team USA or any team for that matter rests solely on its star players.

Here are the story lines that I’m most excited for:

1) Steven Stamkos is working to return to the ice from a horrific injury. Will he be able to play? Will he be a factor for Team Canada?

2) Can the Olympic vets still make a difference? Daniel Alfredsson playing in his fifth Olympics, can he lead Sweden to another Gold medal? Jaromir Jagr will be in his fifth Olympics with the Czechs, and Teemu Selanne will be playing in his sixth Olympics for Finland! I played against Jagr and Selanne when they were young players in the NHL. Even then, it was obvious they were something special.

3) Can a North American team (Canada or U.S.) win on the big ice surface? Since the NHL had participated in the games neither country has had much success on the big ice.

4) Will officiating be a factor? The game is called differently over there, and having half of the officials being ones from European leagues may factor into many outcomes.

5) I know it’s old fashioned but I do not trust the Russians – not as individual human beings, I mean on the bureaucratic, political and organizational sides. I never have, and I never will. Here’s to hoping that all aspects of the games of all the sports are above board and not slanted to give the host country's team every possible advantage.

See you all back here next Wednesday!
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