Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand has been playing professional sports for six years, but during a recent goalball tournament at Perkins School for the Blind, he relied on 17-year-old Brendan, a student at Perkins, to lend him some sports knowledge.
“Who’s the goalie?” he asked, after watching the Perkins goalball team warm up on the court.
“You’ve got a whole team of goalies,” Brendan explained. “Everyone’s a goalie in goalball.”
Marchand and teammate Dougie Hamilton were on campus on March 3 as part of an annual visit by the Bruins to play goalball with Perkins students. In goalball, players attempt to roll a large rubber ball into the opposing team’s goal. Wearing blindfolds, players track the location of the ball based on sound – each ball has a jangling bell inside – and use their bodies to try to block the shot.
In the first match, Marchand and Hamilton donned darkened goggles and kneepads before taking up positions at one end of the court. With some coaching from Brendan, they managed to block the opposing team’s first few shots, throwing their bodies sideways to cover the most ground.
After recovering the ball, Hamilton got to his feet and spun the ball forward, sending it crashing into the opposing net. A small crowd of spectators, including students and teachers, cheered along with the Bruins defenseman, who threw his fist into the air in celebration.
“It was challenging,” said Marchand after the game. “It was tough having the goggles where we weren’t able to see, having to listen to the ball and not really knowing where it was. It’s definitely something I’d like to try again.”
The Bruins stayed on the court for all four matches, as members of the Perkins goalball team took turns competing with (and against) them. In the final game, Secondary student Paige took advantage of a Marchand penalty to put her team on top. Although he was unable to see during the matches, Hamilton was impressed by the level of play demonstrated by Perkins students.
“Watching it and then playing it are totally different,” he said. “It’s pretty cool to see how good they are and how much fun they have. It’s an awesome sport.”
The Perkins students may have been extra motivated by their celebrity teammates, said physical education teacher Tracey Polimeno. Aside from the annual tournament against other schools for the blind, the Bruins’ visit is one of the most anticipated events of the season.
“This is a really big event for the team,” she said. “They get to teach professional athletes about a sport that they excel in. It’s really huge. The fact that the Bruins take time out of their schedule to come here and play against us, that’s what makes it really fun for us."