Boston bad boy Brad Marchand has tongues wagging across the NHL after licking an opponent on Friday night.
That’s how hockey’s irritant-in-chief responded to getting shoved in the face by Tampa Bay’s Ryan Callahan during Game 4 of their playoff series. At the time, Callahan was responding after Marchand ducked beneath a check and sent him flying.
“I probably would have punched him in the face,” Winnipeg forward Adam Lowry said after his team’s morning skate on Saturday in Nashville. The Jets and Predators would play Game 5 of their second-round matchup hours later. “It has never happened to me, but it would be real irritating, that’s for sure.
“It’s like spitting on someone. It’s completely disrespectful. There is a line that shouldn’t be crossed.”
During a conference call with league officials on Saturday, Marchand was warned that any further licking incident would result in a fine or suspension. In a similar disturbing moment, he kissed Toronto’s Leo Komarov cheek during a spat in the first round.
No penalty was assessed when he licked Callahan beneath the nose. The startled Lightning winger returned to the bench afterward and stared at Marchand in disbelief.
“First, you want to take a shower,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said, equally bemused and disturbed. “I am kind of left with that thought. The willies. Is that the word?”
No stranger to controversy, Marchand was suspended for five games this season for elbowing Marcus Johansson of the New Jersey Devils. He was also fined twice, first for embellishment, a second time for elbowing Andrew MacDonald of the New York Islanders.
He defended licking Callahan beneath his nose by saying that he had been punched by him multiple times. There is no rule that bans licking, most likely because nobody other than Marchand has ever done it before.
Paul Stastny, the veteran centre the Jets brought in at the trade deadline, is incredulous. He said his wife was especially grossed out when she saw it.
“What if you were in public and did that?” Stastny said. “What would happen?”
It would likely result in retribution by a bouncer, and police being summoned. Along with possibly getting pounded.
Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg’s captain and a former teammate of Marchand, said there is method to the little stinker’s madness.
“It is something new for him, but I think he achieved his goal,” Wheeler said. “When it comes to distracting people, he does a great job. He is clearly in everybody’s head right now.”
Nonetheless, don’t expect any of the Jets to start licking any of the Predators.
“We are encouraging our guys not to follow suit,” Wheeler said.
Nashville coach Pete Laviolette was caught off guard when asked for his thoughts.
“Luckily, I have never had to answer this question before,” he said.