THE BRUINS’ REAL TOUGH GUY ON THE ICE HAS A SOFT HEART OFF IT
Photo courtesy of the Boston Bruins — Photographed by Michael Indersano
Patrice Bergeron Takes a Backseat to No Athlete When It Comes to Playing Through Pain or Helping Kids in Pain
By Peter F. Stevens
In the NHL, punching prowess and a pile of penalty minutes generally define “tough” guys. Fans can count on one hand the number of fights that Patrice “Bergy” Bergeron has been in while wearing the B’s black and gold jersey, but it’s a safe bet that no one on the team or in the league, for that matter, possesses more grit and toughness than the gifted center. Recognized as perhaps the best “two-way” center or forward in the NHL, Bergeron awed teammates, opponents, media, and fans alike when he played in the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals with a punctured lung, separated shoulder and a broken nose.
It was not the first time that he left the hockey world shaking its collective head. The 6’2”, 194-pound center iceman has come back from several major, career-threatening concussions to establish himself as the Bruins’ “go-to” player. Again and again he has scored clutch goals, made jaw-dropping assists on game-winning strikes, won virtually every key face-off, and forechecks relentlessly. In the playoffs, his game always rises from solid to stellar. Bergeron won the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the NHL’s top defensive forward for 2011–12 NHL season.
Bergeron was selected to play for the Canadian hockey squad in the 2014 Olympics, in Sochi, Russia. Born on July 24, 1985, in Ancienne-Lorette, Quebec, Bergeron’s performance in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League led to selection by the Bruins as the 45th player taken in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. He soon made the leap from junior hockey to the NHL, his first shifts at the TD Garden coming in the 2003-04 season.
On June 15, 2011, he sent championship-starved Bruins’ fans into near-delirium when he netted two goals – including the game-winner, at 14:37 of the first period of Game 7 against the Vancouver Canucks – to clinch the Stanley Cup.
Already a fan favorite before last season, Bergeron raised that respect and admiration among fans, players, and even jaded sports media with a 2013 playoff performance for the ages. The center, having finished 2nd in Selke Trophy voting for the shortened season, scored the tying and game-winning goals against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 7 of Round 1 and snapped in the overtime winner in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was in the Stanley Cup Finals, however, against the Chicago Black Hawks, that Bergeron carved out a standard for hockey – perhaps any sport – toughness that few athletes have ever or ever will match. Although the Black Hawks roared back to snatch Game 6 and the Cup in a last-minute comeback, the most-lasting image of the superb series was that of Patrice Bergeron – wracked by pain from a punctured lung, a broken nose, and a separated shoulder – on the Garden ice.
Off the ice, Bergeron, now a resident of Boston, has proven a favorite for another, more important reason. He founded a charity named called “Patrice’s Pals” to raise funds for and awareness of the financial and medical need of pediatric patients in hospitals all across Massachusetts. The sight of “Patrice’s Pals” in a luxury suite at Bruins’ games and hanging out with Bergeron later, and the annual party he throws for the kids testify that Patrice Bergeron is an athlete who “gets it”