Sunday, March 18, 2012

Grant Marshall

This is Grant Marshall. He was an energetic grinder with good mixture of size, speed and toughness. He was an aggressive forechecker who could surprise with underrated offensive ability.

Marshall would play 10 seasons and 700 games in the NHL, scoring 92 goals and 239 points. He helped Dallas (1999) and New Jersey (2003) win Stanley Cups. All in all, a pretty nice hockey career.

One thing you can be sure of is that Grant Marshall appreciated every moment in the NHL. That's because he almost never made it. On a December night in 1990 the young Ottawa 67s forward lay on the ice, a victim of a nasty hit from behind. His neck was broken, and he was paralyzed.

Everybody thought he was done, of course. How could you not think that. That paralysis proved to be temporary, no small miracle in itself. He hung around the team wearing a halo screwed into his to immoblize his broken vertebrae.

He kept an upbeat attitude, saying in hindsight "When you're a kid you don't know much. You just roll with it." Though no one knew if he would ever play hockey again, he earned so much respect from his teammates and around the hockey world for his contributions to the 67's off the ice.

Well, his teammates mostly showed respect.

"They used to hang jock straps on (the halo)," said Marshall to Ottawa Sun reporter Chris Stevenson.

He was an inspiration to anyone who knew his story. So you can imagine the spark he provided when he returned to the ice in the playoffs in 1991.

"I remember it was the conference finals and we were playing against Eric Lindros," recalled Marshall. "I went out there and tried hitting him. I did a 180-degree face plant and the rest, as they say, is history."

Marshall, who also battled temporary deafness as a kid, never knew how to back down. It would become his trademark throughout his lengthy National Hockey League career.

After being picked in the first round (23rd overall) of the 1992 draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs, he paid his dues in the minors for a couple of years before establishing himself as a regular with the Dallas Stars. He was part of that franchise's growth into a Stanley Cup champion in 1999.

After a couple of years in Columbus, Marshall was acquired by the New Jersey Devils at the trade deadline in 2003. Chipping in nicely with 6 goals in 24 games, Marshall enjoyed a second Stanley Cup championship.

Marshall would play a couple more seasons in New Jersey before exiting the NHL in 2006.

Looking back on his life changing injury, Marshall has taken what he can from the incident."

"I think I'm a better person for it," he said. "There are people who are hurting all the time and can't do anything about it. My family supported me and made my life a hell of a lot easier."

It's a great story about a great guy.


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