Pat "Little Ball of Hate" Verbeek, on the Whalers - CT Hockey Hall of Fame
Pat "Little Ball of Hate" Verbeek weighs in on Brad Marchand, the Bruins, and nicknames
Brad Marchand is great at getting people's attention, specifically their negative attention. This sometimes works out great, like when he pisses someone off enough for them to do something stupid. It also sometimes doesn't, like that time he got suspended 5 games for a clip. As we've documented already, that extends far beyond the ice all the way to his hometown. It also earns him some nicknames. For a while, people were calling him The Rat, in homage to Ken Linseman. Ken agreed with the nickname, and said he was honored for Marchand to wear it. Of course, I'm not sure Ken himself enjoyed the name all that much.
The Original Rat and Little Ball of Hate collide.
Then some people and went and gave him the nickname "Noseface Killah" which is awesome because the Wu-Tang Clan fucking rules. Some t-shirt company took it over for "bru-tang clan" which was a little too...afterschool anime...for me. Your mileage may vary for that. Anyways, the nickname train wasn't (and still isn't) over. The President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, called him "Little Ball of Hate" during their controversial trip to the White House. Honestly, this may end up being the biggest point of consternation out of that trip.
As "Little Ball of Hate" has grown in prominence, we've heard from some people that the nickname belongs to the one and only Pat Verbeek. When he was on the Rangers with Ray "Big Ball of Hate" Ferraro, Glenn Healy bequeathed the nickname "Little Ball of Hate" and the name stuck. So now we're at an impasse. Nicknames are re-used in athletics fairly often. Sometimes it's considered an homage, like when Gordie Howe inherited Eddie Shore's "Mr. Hockey" moniker. Sometimes, though, it seems like identity theft.
So, I did what anyone would do and call up the Original Little Ball of Hate himself, Pat Verbeek. Verbeek is currently assistant GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and his hockey career has been intertwined with the Bruins in a lot of ways. He was rookie of the year as a Sudbury Wolf, just like Benoit Pouliot. Adam McQuaid and Chris Kelly were Wolves, as well. He won the cup with Dallas, beating the Sabres in their second trip to the finals. He also played against the Bruins a bunch, highlights of which include fighting Don Sweeney and a spectacular Reggie Lemelin save in the 1988 Conference Finals. He's now Assistant GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and remembers game 7 of 2011 as a "tough loss" much like game 7 of 1988 with the Devils.
Pat was a fan of the nickname. "There's something about it that I liked. It spoke to that I wasn't an easy player to play against." It came from his teammates and he took it as "a badge of honor." And rightfully so, Verbeek was a heck of a player. In the '98 playoffs he got Mike Ricci to take a penalty against him and then scored on the powerplay (Video includes Marco Sturm!). So of course I had to ask him about Marchand. "He's a heck of a hockey player," Verbeek said, "good speed, plays edgy. Plays bigger than his size. Very tough to play against." You can tell that Verbeek's been working as a scout as he lists off attributes. "He plays bigger than his size."
So of course, we finally get down to the reason for the call: Does Pat "Little Ball of Hate" Verbeek think it's okay that Brad Marchand is getting called "Little Ball of Hate" by the President of the United States, among others? "Yeah," the 1063 point, 2905 PIM former player said, "I think he should take it as a badge of honor. I don't mind. I think he should take it as a compliment." He realizes that "they're gonna call him what they're gonna call him," and there's not much he can do about it.
I couldn't let him go without getting a few comments on playing the Bruins, as he seems to turn up in our history quite a few times, especially as a Whaler. "It was really fun to play in those games. Lots of physical activity. It's a smaller rink, though. Nowhere to hide." It didn't take long for him to remember that he had "a lot of tough losses there. Game 7 in 1988 in the semifinals, and 2011 too. I had some big wins, too." He didn't list those.
So there you have it: Brad Marchand can safely keep "Little Ball of Hate" on his nickname list. From the original Ball of Hate himself.
Special thanks to the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pat Verbeek for being a good sport about these questions.