Bird’s Eye View: THE INSTIGATOR

Justin Marshall's big dream is to become a sports caster. (Tom Bateman/AQ)
Justin Marshall's big dream is to become a sports caster. (Tom Bateman/AQ)
It was called “Marshall’s Corner,” a section of bleachers in the home rink of the Brookfield Midget AAA hockey team, and it was Justin Marshall’s territory.

When teams came to visit, he made sure they wouldn’t have an easy time. He heckled players about their skills and their mothers. He was the seventh man. He’d been an instigator on the ice when he’d played and now he was the instigator in the stands.

He was recognized and loathed in rinks around the Maritimes. He trash talked, brought taunting signs. Once a player threw a stick at him, drawing a four-minute penalty. He even had a fistfight with a parent.

He has proudly called himself the most hated man in Maritime hockey.

***

During The Aquinian story meeting Tuesday, I asked editors who might make a good profile. I wasn’t looking for the 4.0 GPA student or the captain of a sports team or the person who heads a charitable event every weekend. I wanted to profile someone who’s just a real character.

“I would really like to read a profile on Justin Marshall,” one said.

The room went quiet. Then, just as suddenly, Room 5 in Holy Cross erupted with stories about the third-year journalism student. The stories piled on.

“Didn’t he punch an RA?”

“He was the first-year liaison and he did a really good job. He came to student union meetings every week with his talking points written down, and he planned really good events.”

“Remember what he said about Saudi Arabia in that first-year class?”

“Just don’t bring up Ella Henry around him.”

That’s the Justin Marshall we all know. The instigator at a hockey game and in the classroom.

But really, who is Justin Marshall?

 

***

 

We met at the Cellar. He was sitting by the entrance and gave me the higher seat. He wore a collared shirt and was halfway through a whiskey sour.

He’s an only child and from Brookfield, a small town of about 1,500 people somewhere between Truro and Halifax.

He came to St. Thomas University to pursue his goal of becoming a sportscaster.

“It’s been my life-long dream to be rich and famous. I mean, a lot of people know when they hear [me on] Capital FM on Saturday morning, it’s a voice they can trust. So just even covering hockey games, that’s made me more well known,” he said.

But fame quickly turned into infamy for Marshall.

Within two months of arriving at STU, he got drunk and hit an RA.

“It’s unfortunate and we’re friends now so everything’s good and I regret that situation for sure. It’s hurt me in my university, but I feel I’ve built my reputation back up.”

He was forced to leave Rigby Hall after the incident.

“It was a very, very stressful time for me…In the end I thought I settled it like a champ, really.”

He got his money back and moved into an off-campus house.

Later that year, Marshall turned things around and was voted first-year liaison in the Student Union.

“After I got kicked out of res that was a way to prove to myself I could do better.”

He’s run for student union positions each year since, but hasn’t won.

“I find that if the whole school voted I’d win in a landslide…like, if it’s a popularity contest, they would vote for me and the people that believe in my policies would vote for me. But I’m just very outspoken towards the hippies and I don’t think that they like it too much.”

It’s impossible to dislike Justin Marshall for the things he says. Maybe it’s the way he says them, in that flawless Maritime accent. Or the way he leans over and in-close when he speaks to you, giving you a clear view of his wide, lopsided grin.

“I’m a hot-head that’s for sure…I’ve called people out numerous times. I’ve personally attacked people numerous times. I think I’m well liked around here, honestly. I’m very outgoing. I have a great personality, in my opinion,” he said, without taking a break from chewing on a hot chicken wing.

Our interview was repeatedly interrupted by friends and aquaintances stopping to to say hello with Marshall.

Still, the self-proclaimed social butterfly can often be found at the Cellar enjoying a meal by himself.

“On Tuesdays, after my radio show, Political Junkies, I just come down to watch Sports Center. I don’t really want to talk and I just want to watch sports.”

He’s taking the bus to Calgary for Christmas. He’ll travel nearly 3,500 kilometres to spend the holiday with his cousins, whom he considers siblings.

“Family means everything to me. If you don’t have family, you can’t be happy. I mean, I’d do anything for my family.”

Last February, Marshall’s great-grandmother passed away.

“That’s one of the reasons I don’t think I’m ready to go back home for Christmas…I think it would upset me too much. If I went to Nova Scotia and didn’t go to her house, I think it would shake me up a lot.”

Marshall admits he’s had a hard time with death. At 17, his best friend from childhood committed suicide.

“I got the phone call on that Friday morning. I was at my best friend’s place and they told me that Cody’s dad found him hanging from the barn rafters.

“At the funeral I sat at the front row, I probably shouldn’t of and there was a picture of him when he was five and I remember it just so clear because we were such good friends. I just started bawling.”

He came to Fredericton looking for a clean slate.

“This was kind of my getaway. It was a new start, but it wasn’t so new, it was just the same old shit.”

Though, at first, university wasn’t the new beginning he was looking for, he’s still making changes little by little. He plans on toning down his partisanship. He won’t be running for Students Union this year because he doesn’t have the time and he calls it “small potatoes.”

But don’t worry, the Justin Marshall from “Marshall’s Corner,” the Justin Marshall we all know and love isn’t going too far.

“I am myself and I’m not going to change. I mean if you don’t like me, come talk to me about it and we’ll talk about what I need to change and I’ll try and adjust that. But if I don’t agree that I should change it, then I’m not going to; and I’m sorry, not everybody can like you.

“You can’t change the past; you can only work towards changing the future and that’s what I’ve done.”

His spirit is contagious. With the bare chicken bones dropped back into the basket, Justin Marshall and I leave the Cellar. He’s definitely not the worst the guy to have on your side, but maybe, just not all the time.

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