BOSTON — Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron has played his entire professional career with Boston. For 19 years, the 37-year-old center has donned the Spoked-B on his chest.
Following a heartbreaking Game 7 loss to the Florida Panthers in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs Sunday at TD Garden, the Quebec native revealed it was a herniated disc in his back that kept him out of the first four games against Florida, and he needed to step back and think about his future as a hockey player.
After the handshake line, Bergeron stayed on the ice to hug his teammates and salute the Bruins faithful, something his teammates noted.
“Yeah, it’s emotional. You don’t know about the guy’s future. It’s tough, we were hoping to make a good long run here altogether, and it’s tough for everybody,” Brad Marchand said. “Yeah, he’s just a world class leader and person, and I think with the season we had he wanted to give another thanks. And given the situation, it shows his character.”
Marchand has played with Bergeron on the same line since 2011 when the two won the Stanley Cup together. To say Bergeron has impacted the known agitator would be an understatement.
“He’s like the perfect person on or off the ice; he’s just such an incredible leader and so driven, an incredible family man, great father, great friend, always thinking of everybody else first. That rubbed off on me a lot, quite a bit,” Marchand said. “It really changed the way that I approached my day-to-day life and the way I approached the game, and I’ll never be able to say enough great things about him.
“He allowed me to be in this position, play alongside him for a long time, and he’s an incredible person and friend, and incredible teammate and we’ve been lucky to have him as part of this group for a long time. He completely changed the way I live my day-to-day life. I try to be like him and try to follow in his footsteps, try to lead the way he did and lived his life. As good of a pro as the way he approaches everything. I’ll forever be grateful for him.”
David Pastrnak hasn’t played with Bergeron for as many years as Marchand has, but the Bruins forward was the third piece of the “Perfection line.”
“I can’t say enough. Bergy, I’ve never seen such a leader leading on and off the ice ever,” Pastrnak said. “I can’t thank him enough for everything.”
Before Game 7, Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery made the decision to start Jeremy Swayman in net instead of Linus Ullmark, and despite the loss, Swayman spoke about what Bergeron means to him and the team.
“He’s one of the best humans I’ve ever met, one of the best leaders I’ve ever met, and I would do anything for that guy, because I know he’d do the same for me, and he’d do the same for a stranger in the street,” Swayman said. “When you have that feeling for a human being, you want to do whatever you can to make him happy, and I know that he has brought so much happiness to our team, our lives, our families, and I couldn’t be more lucky to have been a part of a team with him as our captain.”
For Montgomery, he’s only had this season to get to know Bergeron, but nonetheless, he was impressed.
“Incredible experience, you know, just because of his awareness, his maturity, his ability to communicate, his ability to listen as part of that communication,” Montgomery said. “And then just how great a hockey player he is — learned a lot from him this year, hope to learn more next year.”
Hopefully, Montgomery’s hopes of learning more from Bergeron next year come to fruition, and the captain comes back for at least one more season.