(Photo Credit: Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

By: Jason Cooke | Follow me on Twitter / X @cookejournalism

Brad Marchand skated in 20 games for the Boston Bruins during the 2009-10 season, recording one assist, and was a -3 with 20 penalty minutes. At the time, the 2006 third-round draft pick was just trying to stay with the big club after a season and a half with the Providence Bruins. He wasn’t worried about accolades, records, or having his name be engrained in Bruins history—and he certainly wasn’t envisioning lacing up for his 1,000th National Hockey League game in February of 2024.

“It would be tough to believe,” said Marchand. “I think as a young player, you don’t really think that far ahead. The only thing you’re really worried about is trying to get here. Once you play a game and you realize how tough it is to stay here, I think you’re just more worried on focusing on the next game and make sure you don’t get sent down.”

Marchand never got sent down, and the rest is history. Now in his 15th season with the Bruins, he’s captured a Stanley Cup, ranks fifth in franchise history in goals, and sports a “C” across his jersey. And now, he’s set to enter uncharted territory in games played tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden.

“It’s something I’m going to sit back and be proud of because I never thought I’d get here,” said Marchand. “I didn’t really expect to get here. Now it’s just another game. I plan on playing a lot more and a lot more accolades and hopefully a few more Cups.”

Marchand has totaled 397-513-910 wearing the Spoked B and will be the eighth Bruin to play 1,000 games, the most recent being David Krejci. Marchand ranks second in franchise playoff goals (53) and is tied for second in playoff points (128), capturing the hearts of Bruins fans with countless memories along the way, including his performances in the run to the 2011 Stanley Cup.

But it was a long, challenging journey for Marchand to this moment, where he’ll add yet another milestone to his resume. He’s not the biggest player on the ice, standing at just 5’9″ and 176 pounds. He also wasn’t a high draft pick by any means and had to pay his dues in the American Hockey League before his shot in the NHL. And as Bruins fans all know, Marchand has come a long way from his old habits of being a frequently suspended player, holding the most individual suspensions in NHL history with eight. He’s now a captain, learning from Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron along his career about what it takes to be a leader.

“It shows that when you follow the culture that’s here and you follow what guys have done that have had success, you see why,” said Marchand. “I learned very early to follow the right guys, and that’s something that Claude (Julien) really pushed me to do. I tried to watch (Bergeron) and (Chara) and the other guys and how they took care of themself. You watch guys like that who are the best in the league at what they do, there’s a reason for it and it takes a lot of commitment and a lot of sacrifice.”

Those mentors paid dividends for Marchand, who began to make an impact on youngsters arriving to the Bruins for the first time. One of those players was Jake DeBrusk, who couldn’t help but notice Marcand’s attention to detail and lead-by-example mindset when he came into the league. It didn’t take long for Marchand to become a prominent voice in Boston’s locker room.

“You first come in even as a rookie, and he’s the first guy you notice,” said DeBrusk. “At that time, there were guys like (Bergeron) and (Chara), but he just caught my eye, his work ethic and intensity. I think that takes a special player to play a thousand games no matter who you are, and I think his road as we all know was obvously different than other guys who have played a thousand games…he’s probably one of the most impressive I would say.”

On Tuesday evening against Tampa Bay, Marchand is going to soak in the moment as a reminder that his path to this position was far from easy. But he’s also using it as another reminder—that he still has a long way to go regarding other goals he yearns to reach.

“It was a goal at one point, and then not too long ago it was no longer a goal because I have much larger goals now,” said Marchand. “I still plan on playing for a lot of years, so a thousand games seems like a bump in the road compared to playing thirteen hundred or fourteen hundred or whatever it could end up at the end of the day.”

The milestone is coming in yet another successful year for Marchand, who has posted 25-23-48 in 52 games played this season and is on pace for 75 points, a plateau he’s only surpassed five times in his career. The 35-year-old admits that the NHL game is only becoming harder as he progresses through his career.

“Everybody that comes in nowadays is so skilled and so talented, it’s almost harder now to keep up than it was back then and you almost have to work even harder now,” said Marchand.

That doesn’t stop him from putting his best foot forward every day. Last week against the Vancouver Canucks, Marchand moved into the top ten list in NHL history in shorthanded goals with 35, tied with Dirk Graham and Theo Fleury for the ninth most. It was just another milestone for Marchand.

“I think back to the people who have sacrificed for you along the way and allowed you to have the opportunity to get here,” said Marchand. “I feel like it would be an injustice to them to not give it my all every day and try to compete. You don’t have good days every day, but if you do the right things and follow guys like (Chara) and (Bergeron) and watch the way that they did to have success, you have more good days than bad days and the good days continue to come.”

Tuesday night is slated to be another good day in Marchand’s career, but that isn’t allowing him to abandon his mindset. There will never not be something to prove to the 21-year-old rookie from Halifax, Nova Scotia.

“The last thing you want to do is start thinking that you’ve accomplished anything,” said Marchand. “Every single day, there’s still something to prove.”