Todd Marchant was a Director of Player Development for the Anaheim Ducks for over a decade, but he was a player for even longer than that.
Earlier this week, I spoke with Marchant on a wide range of player development topics, from how the Director of Player Development role has evolved over the years, what’s the foundation of a strong development program, why he hired Tommy Wingels and Luca Sbisa as development coaches, and how duties will be divided between his three development coaches Mike Ricci, Wingels, and Sbisa.
But we also talked extensively about his distinguished playing career. A scrappy 5-foot-10 defensive center, Marchant suited up for 1,195 games with the New York Rangers, Edmonton Oilers, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Ducks. He won a Stanley Cup with Anaheim in 2007. Marchant and San Jose Sharks GM Mike Grier were also roommates and linemates with the Oilers from 1996 to 2002.
Here’s that portion of the interview: We talked about his Oilers teams feeling like a farm team for the big budget NHL teams back then, the record that he shares with Wayne Gretzky, the tougher match-up between Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau for him, how he and wife have similar hockey jobs, and how Grier was as a roommate.
Sheng Peng: Is your nickname still “Richie”? What’s the origin of that?
Todd Marchant: When I was younger, people used to say I look a lot like Ron Howard. And when I was younger, one of my nicknames was Opie [from “The Andy Griffith Show”]. My high school baseball coach used to call me Opie. When I went to college, my nickname turned into “Richie,” because of Richie Cunningham [from “Happy Days”]. One of my teammates at the time, Craig Conroy, who works for the Calgary Flames, his nickname was Potsie [like from “Happy Days”].
Nicknames evolve over time. I was playing in Edmonton, and Bill Guerin was on the team.
My role in Edmonton was a checking center. Our job was to shut down the other team’s top line on a nightly basis. I remember a three-game set that we outscored the other team’s top line and didn’t give them anything. I don’t know the name of the person that wrote the article, but he compared my play to a terrier on a T-Bone steak. And sure enough, the next morning, Bill Guerin comes in, and he’s like, Hey, T-Bone! All of a sudden, that nickname evolved. Since then, most people in the hockey world, if I’ve known you for any period of time, they call me T-Bone.
SP: What’s your favorite goal, tying Team Canada in the last minute of the 1994 Olympics, beating the Dallas Stars with a Game Seven OT goal in 1997, or your 2009 triple-OT goal versus the Detroit Red Wings?
TM: It’s probably the Game Seven overtime goal against Dallas. Nothing against the other two goals. But we were such underdogs in that series.
I remember Ronnie Low, who was our head coach at the time, we had one strategy in this series, and that was we’re just gonna outhit him. We were younger. We knew the longer the series went, the better it was for us.
The series was played in Dallas at Reunion Arena. At that time of the year, it’s 100 degrees outside. Inside the arena, it was electric, but it was hot.
You look at that sequence of Curtis Joseph making an unbelievable save on Joe Nieuwendyk, literally the shift before.
Trust me, I never had a lot of success on breakaways in my career. For whatever reason, I was not able to. But at that moment, I was able to.
I remember Glen Sather asking me are you going to score on one of those breakaways? It was like a two-sided question.
If I had said yes, he would have said, well, don’t worry about it. If I had said no, he would have said you should be worried about it.
SP: Did you feel like those Oilers teams were an opportunity lost? You had Doug Weight, Curtis Joseph, Bill Guerin, a top checking line with you, Grier, and Ethan Moreau. But the Oilers couldn’t fill out all the support roles and lost all those guys too.
TM: We were a team that it seemed like we always were trading away our veteran players because we couldn’t afford them.
It was almost like we were an American League team for the other NHL teams. I say that now, but at the time, we didn’t feel that way. But when you look back on it, the names you mentioned, these are players that all left because Edmonton couldn’t afford them.
At the time, like you said, the dollar was $1.50 Canadian to an American dollar. So they financially couldn’t compete. At one point, the team was all about sold to Houston. That’s when 36 local people got together and put money in and kept the team in Edmonton. And look at it now, the team, the Edmonton Oilers have never been stronger as an organization and as a franchise. I like to think that this group of players that we were part of has something to do with it.
SP: Do you know that you share a record with Wayne Gretzky? You guys have the most short-handed goals, three, in a playoff season.
TM: (laugh) I share that record with a lot of other people, by the way. In fact, somebody just tied it. Calgary Flames. Tobias Rieder just tied it.
It was brought to my attention because I coach a youth team here in Anaheim. They had put that stat up on the TV the night before, and when I came in the next day, the kids were all like Coach, Coach, you were on ESPN last night.
It’s something that I took a lot of pride in. When I came to Edmonton, Glen Sather said be good at one thing, and just stick to it. And for me, it was being a good defensive player. That included being good on the penalty kill.
So I always took a lot of pride in that. Our leader now, Mike Grier, was my PK partner in Edmonton, so it’s like it all comes full circle.
SP: It looks like it’s going to be a bit of an Edmonton Oilers’ reunion between you, Mike Grier, and Doug Weight with the San Jose Sharks.
TM: I talked to Dougie last week. He’s super-excited. I don’t know the exact amount of years that we’ve played together. I think Mike and I played together for six. Doug and I played together for about nine years.
Those teams in Edmonton, it was different back then. It was more of a family-type atmosphere. We were all young. We all got together all the time. After a game was over, we’d have 10, 12, 14 people going out for dinner, at 11 o’clock at night. We didn’t have post-game meals and all that they have now. We’d have big Christmas parties.
You do these things together, they created that camaraderie with the group.
I’m not around the team today, but I don’t see it happening as much as it used to.
That created that bond as a team, and I think that is so important in order for your team to be successful.
SP: You mentioned that you and Mike Grier were roommates, any good Mike Grier roommate stories?
TM: Mike and I got along so well, we had kind of the same schedules. It was really easy.
We had similar sleep times, we had similar interests, [even] what we watched on TV.
We just seemed to get along. We were roommates for a long time.
When you’re on the road for 10 days, you got a roommate that you don’t get along with or don’t have the same schedule that can make things difficult.
When you have a roommate on the road [that you get along with, that] can make all the difference in the world, and actually help you play better.
SP: Moving on to a more unpleasant part of your career, you signed a long contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets as a UFA in 2003. But then, they tried to trade you to the Ducks. You evoked your no-trade clause, but days later, they waived you and Anaheim claimed you. Anyway, that fiasco was credited with players demanding no-move clauses as opposed to NTC’s.
TM: I had just signed a six-year contract. I played one season, the next year, we missed the whole year with the lockout. And then we started the next season. We just got into November. And I remember sitting on my couch in Columbus, and I got a phone call from Doug McLean, the GM at the time, asking me to waive my no-trade. I just was kind of caught off guard. And I just said, Where am I waiving this no-trade to go to? He goes, I can’t tell you because the team that was trading for you won’t let me.
I was like wait a minute. I fight for a no-trade. You want me to waive it, but you can’t tell me where I’m going? That’s correct. And I said, in that respect, I said no, I’m not going to waive my no-trade.
And he said, well, I’ll try and make the deal without you. I really want to keep you, but it’s a money thing. And I said I get it.
Then two days later, he ends up making the deal for Fedorov. And Francois Beauchemin and Tyler Wright went back the other way. And so I thought, okay, we made the deal without me.
I was on my way to the rink the next day. And he said, No, I still need to trade you. I gotta move the money. So I sat there for about, I don’t know, 5, 6, 7 days, something like that. I had been put on waivers once. And I was not picked up. And so I thought, Okay, I’m going to Syracuse, which is their [AHL] farm team. He says you’re not going to Syracuse.
I still had four years left on my contract. A lot of teams were like, well, I don’t want to pick up a guy with four years on his contract. And sure enough, then a couple days after that, I was put back on waivers and Anaheim picked me up.
For all intents and purposes, I was part of that Anaheim-Columbus trade.
SP: What are your memories of the San Jose Sharks-Anaheim Ducks rivalry?
TM: It was a tough building to play in, it was loud. San Jose, typically back then, was always a fast-starting team. So if you got out of the first period, either even or only down by one, you were in good shape, you had a chance to win the game.
They were hard games. They were hard, physical, fast-paced. But it was always a great, great rivalry with San Jose.
I always thought it was one of the tougher buildings, if not the toughest building in the Western Conference to play in back in the day.
SP: As a defensive center, who was your tougher match-up, Patrick Marleau or Joe Thornton?
TM: Probably Patty Marleau.
Joe was obviously a big, strong guy. That always presented its own set of challenges.
Pat’s a big, strong guy too. You got to take that into account.
SP: Was there a match-up that you just always had trouble with?
TM: The one guy that I struggled with a lot. Maybe it’s because I never played against him a lot. He played in Detroit a little bit. And then he was moved to the Eastern Conference.
I struggled with Keith Primeau. He was a big, lanky guy, and he could skate.
SP: So your wife Caroline is now the GM of the Lady Jr. Ducks program. Is she continuing that?
TM: When we came out here, there was a girls’ program. There was about three or four teams, it was small. Our daughters got involved in the program, and my wife got involved in the program, coaching, I got involved in the program, coaching. And then she moved over to more of a general manager’s position where she’s organizing the fundraiser, she manages two of the teams. My daughter now coaches two of the teams.
Wherever we are, we invest ourselves in the community, and whatever it is that our children were involved with at the time. It’s snowballed from there. She’s gonna continue to be the general manager of the program. I think they have like 14 or 15 different teams now, and all different age groups and levels. It’s the largest girls program on the West Coast.
Every year, they’re sending players off to college to play hockey.
That’s the goal from when they start playing at 8U, until they finish when they’re 19, is that if they want to go to college and play hockey, that they have an opportunity, and that’s the one thing that my wife is passionate about. She helps all these girls get to that point.
It’s not only just the coaching and the managing part, she helps them in the college part of it as well. She knows all the college coaches by first name, they’ll call her and talk to her, what about this player.
SP: Is it cool that you and your wife have similar jobs? You’re trying to develop young players for the NHL, she’s trying to develop young players for college.
TM: Yeah. Sometimes you can bounce ideas off each other. Sometimes light a light bulb for you, maybe I should try it this way?
It’s having to understand that what you did 10 years ago doesn’t always work today. That goes for your own children, and these players as well. So it’s definitely a working relationship.
SP: Speaking of player development, do you have a Mike Keenan story? You played one game for the Rangers in 1994 before they traded you to the Oilers for Craig MacTavish?
TM: I got called up from the Binghamton Rangers up to the New York Rangers. I walked in and [heard] Coach wants to see you.
So I walked in his office, he’s reading the newspaper. And I said, Hey Coach, I just want to introduce myself, I’m Todd Marchant, I just got called up. He literally lowered the newspaper, he had glasses on, looked at me, and said, Where’s the rest of ya? I won’t use the expletive. Where’s the rest of ya? And I said, Excuse me? He goes, get out of my office.
That was basically the only conversation I had with him. I was there for probably two or three weeks before getting traded to Edmonton.
It was different back then. Yeah, not much for player development there.
SP: Okay, I did you a little dirty recently. I spoke with some people about you and the Director of Player Development job, and one guy said you don’t smile too much. That doesn’t seem to be the case here. So favorite comedy movie or TV show?
TM: I’ll date myself, but “Cheers”.
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