Brad Marsh

An awkward though powerful skating style unfairly gave Brad Marsh the reputation of being a skater slower than a tax refund cheque.

In actuality he was one of the best, if unheralded, defensive defensemen of his time.

The helmetless Marsh was popular everywhere he played. How could he not be? Every fan appreciates hard-working, blue-collar players who wear their heart on their sleeve. He may not have been the most talent player on the ice, but his obvious passion and lunch-pail approach to the game endeared him to fans.

"Marshy" was not blessed with much natural talent. That might go without saying, after all he scored only 23 goals and 198 points in 1086 NHL games. He is the lowest scoring player (excluding goaltenders) to have ever played in 1000 games.

Marsh was often mocked for his skating, as he lacked agility and gracefulness, but he was a deceptively powerful skater. He often surprised the other team by rushing the puck out of his own zone, as they fully expected him to just fire the puck off the glass and out. Otherwise, Marsh's offensive game was strictly shots from the point.

Defensively Marsh was very good. He was excellent at reading the oncoming play and using his angles very well. He was a punishingly aggressive player, although his skating would betray him as his sometimes over-aggressiveness would land him out of position and unable to recover.

Marsh was a junior standout with his hometown London Knights. The Atlanta Flames would draft Marsh 11th overall in 1978 ahead of names like Larry Playfair, Al Secord, Tony McKegney and Stan Smyl. Marsh would immediately make the jump to the NHL, playing in 257 consecutive games with the Flames (relocated to Calgary), the last 97 of which as team captain.

The Flames traded Marsh to the Philadelphia Flyers for Mel Bridgman on November 11th, 1981. Marsh would be best known as a Flyer.

"Brad was a very important leader on our team. Marshy was all about the team and never for himself," said longtime teammate Mark Howe. "He could play 20-plus minutes a game and could always be counted on to compete each and every night. He was a great shot blocker and a rugged competitor on the ice, but a gentle and kind person off the ice. Brad was always smiling and loved to be at the rink each and every day. For many years he was a mainstay on the blueline for our team and a big reason why the Flyers had a successful and competitive team in the eighties."

Marsh was pretty distinguishable out there on the ice, what with his distinctive style and unfailing desire. That, and his lack of head wear.

Marsh only temporarily experimented with wearing a helmet despite once cracking open his head after a Cam Neely-Ray Bourque sandwich hit. Despite losing a lot of blood, needing stitches and sustaining a severe concussion, Marsh was back in action 5 games later. Because Marsh had entered the NHL prior to 1979, he was permitted to continue playing without a helmet, whereas all subsequent newcomers to the league were madated to wear the helmet.

Marsh was a courageous shot blocker and dressing room leader.

"Marshy came to play every single night," said longtime teammate Dave Poulin. "What was understated was his leadership role both on and off the ice. He was an enormous positive factor in many young players'' careers."

That leadership helped keep Marsh in the NHL through 1993. the popular journeyman finished his career with short tenures with Toronto, Detroit, and Ottawa. He was Ottawa's representative at the 1993 NHL All Star game, a nice honour for the long time competitor.

Marsh was a great teammate and a great member of the community. He was frequently involved in charity work, whether it be hockey related initiatives or his golf tournament for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.

"You couldn't ask for a better teammate than Brad Marsh. You also couldn't ask for a better human being," suggests former Flyer Tim Kerr. We have to agree with him.


Flyersman,  12:08 PM  

I grew up watching and admiring Marsh as Flyer. He was underrated but not undervalued by his team. He sacrificed his body every night. I don't buy into the "limited talent" line. You don't get drafted 11th overall with limited talent. You don't play 14 seasons in the NHL with an "A" or "C" on your sweater on every team but one, with limited talent. Check out his offensive numbers from the Knights. He just wasn't flashy or expected to play O. His game was defense, and he did it better than most. He was also pretty good with his fists, not afraid to drop the gloves in the first half of his career when that part of the game was more prominent. He was one of the last of a dying breed of defensemen, but a hockey legend for sure.

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