The kid was a rink rat, skating every day after school for three, four, even five hours before heading home.
Small in stature, he made up for his lack of size with grit and speed, earning the nickname "Turbo" for his endless enthusiasm and reckless dashes down the ice.
Last weekend, he even got a new hockey stick, and he couldn't wait to hit the rink with his pals in Grand Rapids, Minn., and try it out.
But Marshall Bader never got the chance.
The 9-year-old was killed Sunday in an accident on his family's farm in Boy River, Minn., a town of 47 residents about 185 miles northwest of the Twin Cities. By Thursday, as social media spread word of his death across Minnesota's tight-knit hockey community, the State of Hockey — indeed, the North American hockey world — was honoring him with "sticks out," leaving a hockey stick outside their homes to mark his passing.
"Hockey is family," said Kelly Brooks Paradise, daughter of legendary coach Herb Brooks, who put a special tribute to Marshall on Facebook.
From Montreal to Massachusetts, from Cleveland to California, the Facebook page of the Grand Rapids Amateur Hockey Association quickly filled with dozens of photos in Marshall's memory.
Solitary sticks on tiny porches. Clusters of sticks outside well-to-do homes. Sticks strung with lights and with messages written on the tape.
The Minnesota Wild posted a photo of players' sticks against a Wild team logo.
And in perhaps the greatest gesture a hockey player could receive, Brooks' family added a photo of their own sticks — along with the gold medal the late Brooks earned by leading the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" U.S. Olympic team to triumph.
Why the outpouring of love for a kid from a town most Minnesotans probably have never heard of?
"Because he was so sweet and innocent," Paradise said, explaining why she participated in "sticks out," a hockey tradition, for only the second time ever. "And the Grand Rapids hockey program and how they surrounded the family — you could just feel the love."
For Paradise, there was another connection, because her father and Marshall both wore number 5 on their hockey sweaters.
"Both number 5, and both gone too young," she said.
Marshall's coach, Andy Shermoen, said he was the kind of boy who doesn't come around often.
"He was a player, for sure," Shermoen said. "He played much bigger than he was. He was one of those kids that always wanted to be first in line, win every race.
"He was a special, special kid. Always had a smile on his face; the hardest-working kid. Every day, he always gave everything he had."
Marshall was "made for the ice," his family said in an obituary. "He couldn't wait to be a [Grand Rapids] Thunderhawk and play in the state tourney with his friends."
The Thunderhawks honored Marshall with a team photo in their locker room, all the players dressed in spotless white game uniforms and each holding up five fingers to signify his number.
The family hasn't yet responded to interview requests, but in a Facebook post, Marshall's mother, Megan Bader, urged others to share their thoughts about her son.
"Please feel free to tell them about Marshall and his amazing spirit ... tell the stories," she wrote. "Let everyone know why he was so loved!!!!"
With a youth tournament scheduled in Grand Rapids this weekend, teams were especially attuned to the sad news.
The Squirt A team from Mounds View Irondale announced it would wear special stickers on its helmets at the tournament, orange circles emblazoned with Marshall's initials and his number.
The Grand Rapids youth hockey association printed its own stickers, with the number 5 and the slogan "Later, Bader" — a nod to how Marshall would whiz past kids much bigger than he was.
The love continued on Facebook into the evening.
"Sending you prayers and love from one hockey family to another. With our deepest sympathy from Princeton, Minn.," wrote Alison Skarohlid Miller.
"Our thoughts & prayers are with all of you from our Squirt A hockey family in Red Lake Falls, Minn.," wrote Valerie Shulstad. "So much love and support going out to your team when we play Grand Rapids on Friday at the tournament."
Shermoen said Marshall's teammates have been together every day this week and designed both the helmet sticker and a patch they'll wear on their uniforms. They also made memorial boards with photos to display at the tournament.
The community is discussing plans for a memorial, but it's too soon to say what that might be. Perhaps a scholarship or naming an event after him, Shermoen said.
"The outpouring of support in the community and the hockey community has been spectacular and much appreciated," he added. "It's a testament to why I believe it's the best game out there."
John Reinan • 612-673-7402