Patrice Bergeron will join some elite company Tuesday night when the Boston Bruins take on the New York Islanders at TD Garden.
The center will be playing in his 1,000th career game — all with the Bruins — joining Ray Bourque, Johnny Bucyk, Don Sweeney and Wayne Cashman. Bergeron also will be just the 323rd player in NHL history to reach the milestone.
Boston drafted a then 18-year-old Bergeron in the second round of the 2003 NHL Draft and he immediately impressed coaches as well as upper management.
“We were all waiting for his game to decline. We weren’t sure if he was playing on adrenaline, or if he was overachieving because he was a young kid and just excited,” former Bruins and current Pittsburgh Penguins head coach told The Athletic’s Joe McDonald. “He ended up making the team out of training camp and we were watching his game every day. We’ll see if his game declines, and at the nine-game mark is when you have to make that decision whether you keep him or not and his game never declined. He was a guy that got better and better every day that he practiced and every game he played.”
But for former Providence Bruins coach Scott Gordon, he didn’t even realize just how good of a player Bergeron was at such a young age until he was with him on the ice.
“Some guys stand out because they have an unbelievable shot, or some guys stand out because you see their speed and skating is so dynamic,” Gordon told McDonald. “Sometimes it will be quickness. Sometimes it’s just sheer hard work. With Bergy, the more you watch him you just see that everything he does, he does so well. Any time I’ve read an article about Patrice Bergeron that talks about a new player coming to the organization, they always say, “I did not realize how good Patrice Bergeron was.” That’s how it was for me when Bergy came to Providence.”
Then-general manager Mike O’Connell wasn’t sure Bergeron would make the Bruins roster right away, mainly because he wasn’t a first-round draft pick. But once his game continued to show consistency, he knew what he had in the center.
“Second-rounders very rarely make it right off the bat. It’s all about the first-rounders. He came in the first day and he was really good. He came in the second day and was really good,” he told McDonald. “He came in the third day and he was really good. Every day he was really good. As management we think we know, but it’s the players who know who’s good and who’s bad before we do, because they’re playing with them; they’re on the ice. They can see the little things. They can see the little subtleties. (Management) sees it but it takes time. Players see it immediately, especially the good players. Patrice was able to become a very good player quickly, so we couldn’t send one of our best players back to junior, because what kind of message would that send to our team that you’re not trying to win?”
Since then, Bergeron has been a force for Boston. Despite dealing with a season-long lockout during the 2004-05 campaign and suffering a near career-ending concussion in 2007, the Bergeron never missed a beat. He played a crucial role in the 2011 Stanley Cup-winning team and has continued to thrive into his 30s.
Bergeron will enter his 1,000th game in a Bruins uniform with 44 points (16 goals, 28 assists) on the season, good for third-best on his team behind linemates David Pastrnak (62 points) and Brad Marchand (57 points).
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images