Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Current B's were awed by newest HHOFer St. Louis’ career

Matt Kalman
November 12, 2018 - 10:24 am

Not much renders perpetual motor mouth Brad Marchand speechless.

But as a 25-year-old invitee to Hockey Canada’s Olympic team orientation camp in the summer of 2013, Marchand didn’t know what to say as he rubbed elbows with one of his idols, Martin St. Louis.

“I just sat there in awe of him,” Marchand recently told WEEI.com. “I was pretty shocked to have been there, to be invited to that camp, so I was more just in shock of being there and kind of taking everything in. But I wish I would’ve more but I was nervous being around him, I was shy and nervous to be playing with my idol, so I was kind of just trying to take it in.”

St. Louis will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame Monday. His story is one of the most remarkable tales of overcoming odds the Hall of Fame has ever seen. An undrafted, undersized (Hockeyreference.com lists him at 5-foot-8, 180 pounds) player, in the era before it became fashionable to be either, St. Louis through sheer determination and unmistakable skill became a Hart Trophy winner and Stanley Cup champion.

You can imagine why another undersized forward like Marchand (he’s listed at 5-9, 180 these days) would’ve been enamored with St. Louis’ ability to beat the odds.

“His work ethic was always the thing that I took away initially. Everything I had heard about him was how hard he worked and how hard he trained,” Marchand said. “His compete level and then, obviously, his talent. He was extremely talented, he created new moves. The things he did on the ice were things you hadn’t seen other guys do before. And just the way he played was very similar to the way I played, stops and starts, and getting out of areas. So I didn’t have the talent level that he had, but I wanted to. So you take a lot away from watching a guy like that.”

Bruins defenseman John Moore was a 23-year-old with the New York Rangers when they swung the mega-trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning to acquire St. Louis in 2014. Moore soon got an advanced lesson in what it takes to be a star in the NHL.

“One thing that sticks out at me was, and it’s something that I really appreciate the more I’m around this game, is his approach every single day and the demands he would place on his teammates from a competitive standpoint, both in practice and in games,” Moore recalled. “It was really cool to see and that was the guy that when I was playing with him had had 1,000 points, was already a Hall of Famer, and to see the drive and the hunger and the passion that he approached the game with every day, it was contagious.”

Everything from practices to ping pong games became more competitive around the Rangers after St. Louis’ arrival, Moore said. The Rangers went on a run that lasted all the way to the Stanley Cup final, where they fell to Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, Moore had his hands full trying to prove he could be a NHL regular but having to practice against St. Louis.

“How he could get under guys and create leverage and win pucks and he was so strong on his feet,” Moore remembered. “It was really ... practice was not easy going against him.”

The Bruins had their own run-in with St. Louis when there was a lot on the line. The 2011 Eastern Conference finals was a seven-game battle of attrition and St. Louis, and linemates Vinny Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos, had plenty of clashes with the likes of Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara.

Chara, the NHL’s tallest player ever at 6-9, was always impressed by the undersized but courageous St. Louis, during that series and throughout the wing’s 16-season career.

“He was gritty, and was never afraid to go in front of the net, he was never shying away from being hit,” Chara said. “I give him a lot of credit, he played through the old clutch and grab, tough holds, old-school hockey, and he was successful. He never really shied away from that stuff and he survived it. It’s one thing to be brave enough and doing that, but kind of like I think he was pretty much really-bad injury free and he made such an impact on that team when they won the Stanley Cup against Calgary [in 2004].”

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