BRIGHTON, Mass – It all started with a few jokes from Brad Marchand during “The Pick Up” with NBCSportsBoston.com about Charlie McAvoy getting coal in his stocking for Christmas after being late to a few things for the Bruins.
“The kid always seems to find himself in trouble being late for everything,” said a joking Marchand on “The Pick Up” when asked who he’d give coal in their stocking for Christmas. “I’d get him a clock, or a watch. He is late for everything. I’ve never seen anybody more late for planes, buses or meetings than that kid.”
But as with many jokes, there was certainly a kernel of truth to it all.
Then a report from the Boston Globe on Monday morning narrowed it down to a pair of incidents where McAvoy was tardy – one for a special teams meeting and one for being late to a bus after a game on the road – this season, and that it was Marchand himself that discussed the situation with the 21-year-old defenseman. All involved with the Bruins have indicated that it wasn’t a big deal or a real behavioral issue with McAvoy like it might have been when Tyler Seguin was benched for a game in 2011 for missing a team meeting in Winnipeg.
But it’s also pretty clear that McAvoy still has some growing up to do at a time when he could have still been a senior at Boston University, and that the tough conversation with Marchand was one that was necessary. Marchand discussed it with NBCSportsBoston.com on Monday after practice, and said it was something that veterans did for him countless times when he was a younger player.
“Chucky is a great kid and an awesome teammate. He’s a very good person, very good teammate and very good kid, and he’s going to be a great hockey player for this team for a long time. But everybody goes through things where you’re coming in as a new guy, and you have to learn the way and the ropes,” said Marchand to NBCSportsBoston.com. “Things like that happen. It was documented that it happened to [Seguin] his first couple of years here, and it definitely happened to me my first couple of years here. When you’re a kid and you get that responsibility and you go from living with billets or your family to living by yourself, sometimes something might happen when you’re late here or there.
“It came about [on the “Pick Up”] because we were just joking around in the car about Santa Claus. It’s not an issue in the room, and it wasn’t really necessary for [Globe reporter] Kevin Paul DuPont to make it an issue. Chucky is a great teammate and great player for this team, and it’s a non-issue for this room. It was just something that sometimes you need to learn along the way. It’s not like we’re worried about Chucky in any kind of way, or anything like that.”
What it comes down to in Marchand’s estimation is a college kid learning how to be a pro. It started last season as a rookie when Bruce Cassidy did have to talk to McAvoy about upping his urgency level at practice and getting on the ice earlier for the quick-paced practices. Cassidy also said after practice that it hasn't been an issue for McAvoy being late to mandatory team meetings, and the coaching staff "has no beef" with his attendance.
This season it amounts to not making his teammates wait for him in a couple of instances, and instead probably needing to be early for everything – team-mandated or not – as one of the younger guys on the team.
“It’s a lot easier for the guys that have kids. We’re up at 7 [a.m.] and it’s again something that you learn along the way,” said Marchand to NBCSportsBoston.com. “These are things you don’t know about to be a pro and how to do things the right way. But those are things you’re going to learn along the way. A lot of these things we’re told a time or two, you get from there and you build it into your routine and everything.
“It’s not a big deal. By no means do we have any issues with Chuckie. He’s a great teammate and a great kid. He’s very young and he’s got a lot of responsibility thrust upon him because of the player he is and how good he is. Sometimes it’s hard, but he’s coping well with it, doing well with it and he’s going to be a great player.”
So who were the guys that Marchand heard it from when he was a youngster back in 2010-11 and needed to be called out to get in line with being a pro’s pro at the NHL level?
“It was a little different with me. We had so many [veteran] guys. It was pretty hard on the young guys, but it was great because we learned pretty quickly,” said Marchand to NBCSportsBoston.com. “[Greg] Campbell and Shawn Thornton were my [early] linemates, so they talked to me a lot. A lot of times they didn’t make it on easy on me. They were very hard on me, especially Thortie. And then there were guys like Bergeron, Chara and [Mark Recchi] and [Andrew] Ference, so it wouldn’t take long for somebody to say something you stepped out of line.
“I had to be talked to quite a bit when I was coming up, and then as I got older I started hanging with Chris Kelly a lot. He kind of saved me. He used to talk to me a lot on the car rides to the rink, and he’d kind of fill me in during the car ride rather than me getting yelled at in the rink on how to act. Then you’d go from there. I still have lots to learn.”
Certainly those players of Bruins’ past have contributed heavily to what Marchand is passing along now with Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and the rest of the proven veteran leadership group in the room. Now it’s up to McAvoy to receive the message and learn just as Marchand did so many years ago, and by all accounts the young D-man is doing just that.
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