Last night, my favorite hockey player, Patrice Bergeron, played in his 1000th career game with the Boston Bruins. So, excuse me while I take full advantage of this momentous opportunity to gush about him. When speaking of Patrice Bergeron, it's hard to do anything but gush. His very existence seems to demand it. He is the epitome of dignity and class, on and off the ice.
In his 15 seasons with the Boston Bruins, Bergeron has managed to earn the respect and admiration of not only his teammates and the Bruins organization, but the entire league, as well. I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone with a negative thing to say about the guy. Even Sidney Crosby acknowledges that Bergeron is something special.
Killer personality aside, Bergeron's exceptional skill on the ice has earned him four Selke trophies from seven consecutive nominations, over the course of his career. The Frank J. Selke Trophy is awarded to the forward who demonstrates the most skill in the defensive component of the game. If he wins it this year, he will become the first player in NHL history to have received this honor five times. Claude Julien describes Patrice as the “best two-way player [he's] ever coached.”
The end of last night's 3-1 win over the New York Islanders was a heart-melting display of the loyalty, respect, and straight up love that the Bruins team has for one another. In a touching moment for Bergy's 1000th, David Pastrnak took a perfect feed from Brad Marchand toward the Islander's empty net with about a minute left to play in the game. He could have easily buried the puck himself, but glancing over his shoulder, he saw his line mate, Bergy coming up behind him. Pasta left him the drop pass and Bergeron tallied his second of the night. I'll admit a few tears were shed on my part when Bergy tousled Pasta's head in affectionate appreciation.
It's moment like this that make you so damn proud to be a Boston fan.
Fans love him, opponents respect him, coaches rely on him, and teammates, like Marchand, learn from him. This could be Bergeron's greatest contribution to the game, the positive affect he has on other players.
In a delightfully humorous and well-written article by Brad entitled “Built for Boston,” Marchand singles out certain people that have had a pivotal impact on his career. And one of those people, unsurprisingly, is Patrice Bergeron. Marchand recalls Bruins head coach at the time, Claude Julien telling him, “I want you to look at Patrice and do everything exactly like he does it. You're not going to be the best player on the ice every single night, because Patrice is going to be the best player on the ice every single night. So I want you to be the second best.”
In response, Brad says, “So I watched Patrice from day one, and I saw the ultimate professional. I don't have many rules to live by, but one of my rules is: If you say anything bad about my brother, or about Patrice Bergeron, I'll fight you. The guy is simply unbelievable. I've watched him play with broken bones, a punctured lung…a freaking punctured lung.”
It's exactly that combination of grit, perseverance, tenacity, and heart that puts Bergeron at the top of the pack, and inspires others to emulate him. An amazing teammate and humble leader, you won't find another player who is more willing to give of himself for his teammates and because of that, Marchand says, “If Patrice was doing more, we were doing more. When a guy is willing to play with a punctured lung for his team, you're willing to do anything for him.” And just when you think Patrice Bergeron can't possibly get any better, he outdoes himself. Again and again.
In 1000 games, Patrice has logged 307 goals and 473 assists for a total of 780 career points. He has captured the hearts of fans all over New England and one day, I know we will see the number 37 banner raised into the rafters of TD Garden alongside greats like Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque, and Rick Middleton.
Cheers to 1000 games, Patrice, and here's to 1000 more!