The NHL Can’t Decide Whether It Told a Player to Stop Licking Other Players

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 23:  Brad Marchand #63 of the Boston Bruins waits for a puck drop against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game Six of the Eastern Conference First Round in the 2018 Stanley Cup Play-offs at the Air Canada Centre on April 23, 2018 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Bruins 3-1.(Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Brad Marchand
Brad Marchand, with tongue temporarily inside mouth. Claus Andersen/Getty Images

When Boston Bruins winger Brad Marchand licked the face of Toronto’s Leo Komarov on April 12, it was an odd, if affectionate, welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Marchand is known for getting under his opponents’ skin, but in Game 1 he seemed perfectly happy to topically apply pressure to the Maple Leafs forward.

After the game, Marchand didn’t exactly deny his sloppy overture, and he told reporters that he did it because he found Komarov “cute.”

The series eventually went the distance, and on Wednesday Boston won Game 7 at home. With the matchup done and dusted and the saliva good and dry, Marchand’s licking seemed to be more or less forgotten. Instead, things were just about to get complicated.

In a Thursday column, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported a tidbit about the league’s response to the lick. Friedman wrote that Boston “got a, ‘We’d prefer if you could tell Brad Marchand to stop licking people’ phone call from the NHL.”

When other outlets aggregated the scoop, Marchand quickly and concisely denied the claim on Twitter.

Despite the denial, ESPN corroborated the original report. According to hockey writer Greg Wyshynski, “A league spokesperson confirmed … that the NHL demanded Marchand not repeat that particular antic again. A message was communicated to Marchand through the series’ supervisor of officials Mick McGeough.”

While that may seem like a satisfying conclusion, Lickgate was far from over. On Friday, USA Today ran a story with a quote from NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, who contradicted what the league spokesperson had told ESPN. “No, we did not contact the Bruins or Brad Marchand regarding this incident,” Daly said.

So which one is it? I reached out to the NHL for comment and am waiting for a response. Who knew that a hockey player licking another hockey player’s face could get so messy?