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NHL (National Hockey League)

NHL China Games: Hong Kong youngsters meet Brad Marchand after Boston Bruins star nets in Calgary Flames win in Shenzhen

Stanley Cup winner’s former teacher reveals how not doing his homework nearly cost him his hockey career as teams head to Beijing for game two

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 September, 2018, 2:00pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 September, 2018, 11:02pm

The NHL China Games in Shenzhen on Saturday afternoon saw a crowd of 10,218 in the Shenzhen Universiade Arena but three Hong Kong youngsters got closer to the action than most.

The 15-year-olds from Fukien Secondary School – Ki Ki Lin, Sam Wong and Kazaf Kwong – got a private audience with Boston Bruins star Brad Marchand after the game.

The reason for this was that both the NHL All-Star and the Hong Kong pupils share a teacher.

Mary Beth Osburn taught Marchand and his siblings in Halifax, Nova Scotia, back when the Stanley Cup was little more than a dream.

Marchand won that with the Bruins in 2011, in a career that has also seen him win the World Cup and become a World Champion with Canada.

Osburn actually curtailed the 10-year NHL veteran’s fledgling future when she told his mum that he had not done his homework resulting in a ban from the ice.

It was a story she retold for the Bruins media machine as the three aspiring athletes looked on after the game.

Bans from the ice are a hallmark of his pro career, where his no holds barred playing style and willingness to kiss opponents has seen him fall foul of authorities plenty of times.

It was the same on Saturday at the Shenzhen Universiade Arena in the city’s Longgang district. Marchand was the focus of the ire of the Calgary Flames fans in attendance.

He ended up in the penalty box for some roughhousing and was booed when he returned to the ice in overtime, after normal time had finished 3-3. He was booed again when he stood up to take his shot in the shoot-out but held his nerve to beat Flames goalie Jon Gillies and level up the scores.

How did he feel about getting booed? “Ah, that’s OK. I scored,” he laughed.

He might not be laughing after Osburn sent a message to his mother back in Canada that he had been sent to the sin bin.

After the game, teacher and pupils were invited to the inner recesses of the Arena to meet Marchand and see the Bruins machine as it packed up for their “home” game with the Flames in Beijing’s Cadillac Arena on Wednesday.

Time was limited as the NHL and its teams packed up and headed for the airport to beat Super Typhoon Mangkhut.

Marchand has a pennant from the school to add to a win in the first China Games in Shenzhen and a fan-made fan that was given to him at the team hotel.

There will be chance for more souvenirs when they get to Beijing and take in the Great Wall with a warning to the stall holders and the city’s markets.

“We went to the market with all the fake stuff. We did some damage there. We were pretty hard bargainers. Someone got yelled at and they’re not allowed to shop there anymore. We had fun.”

The crowd in Beijing can expect a game. Marchand was impressed with the Shenzhen one.

“Crowd was better than I thought it was going to be. It’s good, there was a lot of people. It took a little bit to filter them in but they told us it was going to be like that. Pretty good crowd.”

Unsurprisingly for a player who often puts the offensive into offensive lineman, he thought the fans preferred it when the game threatened to boil over.

“[It was] fun. The game started to get a little chippy, so I think they were getting into it a little bit more, too.”

If Marchand is a scourge on the ice to players and fans, he was a gentleman off it taking time out to talk to the youngsters and laugh along as Osburn told the Bruins media machine how she once called his mum to get him banned from the ice.

“Everyone talks about how rough and tough he is on the ice, well the only one he’s scared of is his mother,” she said. “True,” he agreed as Osburn told how she nearly ended his hockey days in grade five.

Hopefully, the lesson learned was one of doing your homework rather than Marchand’s admission that his scholastic diligence “lasted about a week”.

“It is my pleasure and privilege to watch my former student excel in a career I know he loves,” said Osburn. “From a young boy sitting in my classroom to the professional athlete I see today, and here he is inspiring my students to be their very best. I could not be more proud”

He’s inspired the three, who had never heard of hockey before Osburn offered them the chance to go to Shenzhen, to watch hockey too, they said. That’s 3-0 to the NHL China Games.

Maybe that’s all hockey needs to succeed, more chances for future fans to meet the players that they variously described as “so funny” and “handsome”.

Although meeting the cheerleaders probably didn’t hurt.