The NHL Player Who Used His Tongue To Avoid The Penalty Box

A quick rundown of nicknames given to Boston Bruins winger Brad Marchand will do a nice job of painting a picture of how he plays the game, as well as how he is perceived by fans and players alike: the Honey Badger, Squirrel, Rat, Tomahawk, The Rat King, Nose Face Killah, and Little Ball of Hate, the latter of which even President Barack Obama used for him when the Bruins visited the White House after their 2011 Stanley Cup Championship, per NESN.

While Nose Face Killah is a nod to the rapper Ghostface Killah, as well as Marchand's prodigious beak, the rest stem from his voracious playing style. While early in his career, Marchand was known as one of the NHL's outstanding pests — a player with an innate ability to get under the opposition's skin — he has since gone on to become one of the league's greatest pests, who can also put the puck in the back of the net at an impressive rate.

However, even with several 30-plus goal seasons and a Stanley Cup on his résumé, Marchand still gets a lot of attention for antics that toe the line of legality, and even good taste. Literally.

The lick heard 'round the world

Marchand's Bruins met the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The two Original 6 teams have been around a long time and have gone at it in several post-season series in recent years. While those series are memorable in their own right, Brad Marchand provided one of the most bizarre and memorable moments in playoff history, and he did it more than once.

According to Vice, it happened in the first game of the Bruins-Maple Leafs series, one that was testy from the start. Leafs forward Leo Komarov checked Marchand into the boards in front of the Maple Leafs' bench. The two started to tussle, but instead of dropping the gloves, Marchand did something wildly unexpected. He put his face close to Komarov's and started licking him. It's pretty disgusting on a few levels, but none of the on-ice officials saw it happen, so there was no penalty on the play.

Oddly, this wasn't the first strange confrontation between Marchand and Komarov that season. In a regular-season match-up the previous November, the two got together and Marchand ended up planting a kiss on Komarov's cheek (posted on YouTube).

Marchand does it again

The Bruins defeated the Maple Leafs and moved on to face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round. All eyes were on Marchand to see if he would be up to his trademark antics, and sure enough, he delivered. This time it was in Game 4 of the Bruins-Lightning series (via Hockey Reference). After a series of heavy hits — one of which was delivered by Marchand on Lighting winger Ryan Callahan — play was stopped after several scrums broke out. One involved Callahan and Marchand, and once again, the Little Ball of Hate dished out another licking.

According to Sports Illustrated, after the game, Marchand said he licked Callahan to keep the Lightning forward from continuing to try to fight him. "Well, [Callahan] punched me four times in the face," Marchand said, "So, you know, he just kept getting close."

Technically, there isn't a rule against licking an opponent — likely because no one thought they'd need one — but after the Callahan incident, the league informed Marchand and the Bruins that another licking incident wouldn't be tolerated. This was done under Rule 28 of the NHL Rulebook, which is a broad rule that essentially allows the league to investigate and issue penalties or fines for anything not explicitly outlined in the rules. Like, say, licking an opponent.