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Andrei Nazarov steals Bryan Marchment's thunder
Sun. Dec. 6, 1998. (c) 1998, San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)

The Hockey News has declared a new champion for the title of The Most Hated Man in Hockey, and the honor goes to old our pal Naz, Andrei Nazarov, the former Shark now with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Anyone who remembers Naz's head-butting and eye-gouging can vouch for the merits of THN's premise.

But where does this leave Sharks defenseman Bryan Marchment? Two other magazines essentially bestowed The Most Hated title to Marchment earlier this season. So does Marchment feel dethroned now that THN has strapped the belt around Nazarov's waist?

``I never really felt that I had it,'' Marchment said with a smile. ``That's just something reporters have written about.''

Nazarov was suspended seven games this season for an unprovoked cross-check to the face of Colorado defenseman Cam Russell. It wasn't the first multi-game suspension in Naz's NHL career.

So as someone who has been crowned elsewhere as The Most Hated and as someone who was traded for Nazarov, does Marchment feel Nazarov is worthy of the title? Did THN make the right call?

Again, Marchment smiles.

``Maybe it is, maybe it isn't,'' Marchment said. ``I don't know what the truth is. I haven't played enough against him.''

But Marchment was involved in the brouhaha that led to Nazarov's 13-game suspension in 1997 for hitting a linesman who was breaking up a fight. The suspension was later reduced to six games.

Marchment was playing for Edmonton then and Nazarov for the Sharks. Late in the game, a brawl erupted and Nazarov, despite wearing a protective face cage because of a broken jaw, wanted to tangle with Marchment.

``I pulled his cage off and when they held him back, he went after the officials,'' Marchment said with a soft chuckle.

The NHL punished Nazarov for hitting linesman Brad Lazarowich on the side of the head as Nazarov tried to free himself and go after Marchment.

Nazarov said he was hot because Marchment had clipped his leg from behind. (Now there's an original accusation). And Marchment, who hasn't picked up any nominations for sainthood, landed a couple of punches on Nazarov while the linesman had a hold of the big Russian.

``Well, he started it,'' Marchment said.

Like the heavyweight ranks of boxing with different sanctioning groups recognizing Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis as the champion, maybe there is room for Nazarov and Marchment at the top of The Most Hated rankings.

What advice does Marchment, the old master, offer Nazarov, the youthful warrior, in handling the pressures that come with the title? For this, Marchment doesn't smile and grows serious.

``Just remember who you are and what you mean to your team and your teammates,'' Marchment said. ``That's the biggest thing.''