No, Patrice Bergeron is not 1000 years old, but he did reach a milestone in his NHL career by playing in his 1000th game on Tuesday night, February 5, 2019, as the Boston Bruins hosted the New York Islanders in the second of three games those two teams will play this season. Oh, and since the New England Patriots were in town having celebrated their sixth Super Bowl win from Sunday with a rolling rally (“Get the Duck Boats ready”) earlier in the day, it seemed only fitting that they should hang with the Bruins and maybe drop a ceremonial puck. Instead of Captain Zdeno Chara taking that faceoff, Bergeron was invited to participate.
For Bergeron, who really doesn’t seem to like it when the attention is all on him, he was very happy that the Patriots were there.
“Yeah, thank God. That was perfect. I was very happy with that,” he joked. “It was awesome. There was so many of them too. It was actually great to see, and you know, they came in the locker room before the game and we told them obviously we were cheering for them and it was an amazing ride again this year, and you know, I thought that the crowd was really into it and that set the tone for a great night.”
Bergeron joins a relatively small group—as he becomes the 334th NHL player to reach 1000 games. This season he is the 12th to do so. Only 30 other players have played all their career games with a single team. And he is just the fifth Bruin to reach that milestone wearing just the Spoked-B. He joins Ray Bourque (1,518), John Bucyk (1,436), Don Sweeney (1,052) and Wayne Cashman (1,027).
There was a nice montage shown and after it was finished, they showed Bergeron as he had been watching it and he waved to the fans. So, what was going through his head?
“Yeah, it was special. I just wanted them to drop the puck basically, but it was special,” Bergeron admitted. “It’s always a little awkward for me, but I very much appreciate it of course. It’s been 15-16 years…15 here, 16 with the organization…it has a special place in my heart obviously. Boston, it’s been great. Obviously, my kids were born here and it’s definitely a second home now. So yeah, it’s very much appreciated, and they’ve been here supporting us since day one so it meant a lot.”
And, if he wanted the puck to drop so quickly after that montage, one has to wonder how he will handle the big ceremony scheduled to take place before the Bruins’ Saturday matinee game, when they play the Los Angeles Kings. Of course, he will have his wife and three children with him, which undoubtedly will make it memorable.
Perhaps, though, it is his always wanting to point the attention at his team that makes him all the more deserving of the awards and praise he gets. Bergeron feels his job is to contribute, and one of those ways is scoring goals. And he doesn’t seem to believe that this makes him special.
“That guy just steps up in every situation. You know he’s going to have a big game on a milestone night like tonight. It was great to see. He’s one of the top players in the game and he steps up in big moments. He did that again tonight,” Brad Marchand said of his centerman.
Patrice Bergeron became the 53rd player in NHL history to score a goal in his 1,000th NHL game and the fifth to do so this season.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) February 6, 2019
But the reality is that he has long been a player who plays right, works hard, is willing to play elsewhere if necessary. His first lockout, he played in Providence, with the Bruins AHL affiliate, the Providence Bruins. During the shortened 2012-13 season he played in Switzerland on HC Lugano before representing Canada in the Spengler Cup, where yes, the team won the tournament. He is a member of the Triple Gold club — those players who have won gold in the World Championship and the Olympics, and won a Stanley Cup. Oh, and he got his gold in the World Championship (2004) before he got one in the World Junior Championship (2005), well because he’s Bergeron.
The respect of his teammates was evident Tuesday night as David Pastrnak and he headed into the Islanders end with an empty net in front of them. Pastrnak could have just put that puck right in the net. Instead he dropped it back so that Bergeron would have a second goal on the night.
“Yeah, you know, means a lot obviously. I was surprised. I saw him look a couple times. I was like oh no, he’s going to drop it, but we were definitely alone and very much appreciate it,” Bergeron said.
“That’s the respect they have for Patrice, I think, in that particular situation and for one another. They’ve done it before where they try to include everybody. Sometimes they’ve messed up empty-net goals. That one would’ve been hard to, but they’ve done that in the past. And again, they play for one another, that line, and it shows every night, how good they are,” Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy stated.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) February 6, 2019
He comes to play every night and he works hard. The day his first son was born, he was up most of the night with his wife as she gave birth. He got a couple hours nap, and was on the ice that night to play—and yes he got the first goal that night.
This past off-season he had surgery, and then had some delays during recuperating that kept him from participating in training camp. The Bruins third game of the season, and their home opener, he got a hat trick—only his fourth career hat trick. Then later he missed 16 games due to another injury. In his first game back, on December 22, against the Nashville Predators, he scored two goals and added two assists. And before the team took to the ice that night, he reminded them how fortunate they were to be playing, as he had been forced to sit and watch, and he truly missed the game.
But perhaps the biggest example of how he walks the walk was during the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals against the Chicago Blackhawks, when the Bruins painfully lost in Game 6. While it was clear that there was something ailing Bergeron, it wasn’t until after that game that the laundry list of injuries was released. In Game 4 he ended up with torn rib cartilage. Game 5 he suffered a broken rib on his left side. And in Game 6, he added a separated right shoulder and a punctured left lung. And still he was out there playing, despite the tremendous pain he was in.
It is this effort and his skill and abilities that have earned him the respect of not only his own teammates and organization, but also the respect of players throughout the league.
“I mean, his resume speaks for itself. He’s won pretty much everything, and he plays the right side of the puck, he plays the right way, he doesn’t really cheat out there, so he’s definitely a great ambassador for the game, and he’s had a hell of a career,” Islanders forward Jordan Eberle said after the game.
Bergeron honors the game of hockey in so many ways, and he leads by example. But he also encourages conversations about plays with his linemates, about the organization and what is expected when rookies arrive.
His approach to the game and to the training has earned him the respect of the Boston Bruins—which is why he’s been able to reach this milestone wearing only one sweater—the Spoked B.
Boston is fortunate to have him. And there will come a time when new players will point to Bergeron as their motivation in playing the game as it should be and doing all those little things—like he has—and perhaps even why they decided to try hockey in the first place.