Today, Patrice Bergeron celebrates his 27th birthday. Though he is an integral part of the Boston Bruins and has been with the team for coming on a decade now, his quiet, selfless demeanor may mean that some people don’t know much about him. When he won the Selke Trophy for best defensive forward in June, that may have introduced people to him, but on the occasion of his birthday, let us look at some great things about him.
1. In possibly the strongest draft class ever
It’s been almost a decade since the 2003 NHL Draft in Nashville, a draft class with so many accomplished players from start to finish that many consider it the best in all 50 years of drafting. Consider the facts: picks numbers one, two and three all have Stanley Cups; Ryan Suter and Zach Parise were both first-rounders; everyone drafted in the first round has played at least one NHL game. The later rounds were excellent, too. In the second round, draftees like Shea Weber, David Backes and Jimmy Howard all got hats and sweaters. So did Bergeron, who was picked 45th overall by the Bruins. (Click here to read more about the 2003 draft.) At the time, he basically had only one full year of junior hockey under his belt and didn’t speak much English. Some may have overlooked him, but the Bruins selected him, a wise choice.
2. He’s never played anywhere else
Bergeron has always worn the Black and Gold. He jumped to the Bruins immediately after his drafting and has been there ever since, aside from the lockout year, when he stayed in the Bruins organization by playing for Providence. He also has a no-move clause on his current contract.
3. Inspiration for the future
In 2005, as the Bruins struggled mightily with the big show back on, then-general manager Mike O’Connell looked to the future. He wanted to build the Bruins in someone’s image, make a positive example of a player heading into what he hoped would be a brighter future. It came down to a choice between Joe Thornton and Bergeron. O’Connell picked Bergeron based on his on- and off-ice personality. Soon, Thornton was gone, but of course Bergeron has remained.
4. Concussion comeback
After suffering a Grade 3 concussion in October 2007, Bergeron could not play for the rest of the season. Sometimes, he struggled to merely carry on a conversation or even watch TV because the concussion’s effects were so profound. But he steadily recovered and started to get back into form, returning for the Bruins’ preseason in 2008. Not long after that, he scored his first goal. Since then, he has had two more concussions, neither as severe as the first but still worrying each time, but he continues to persevere.
5. When everyone learned he’s left-handed
Like about ten percent of the world’s population, including yours truly, Bergeron writes with his left hand. He’s also a southpaw at other times as well, as demonstrated in this scrap from the 2009 playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens. Bergeron takes exception to Josh Gorges and teaches him a lesson in a surprisingly quick takedown that has Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley stunned into 30 seconds of silence in the booth.
6. Playing with Mark Recchi
Recchi was drafted in 1988, when Bergeron was still a very small child, but when they were slotted onto a line together upon Recchi joining the Bruins for what he thought would be his last full season in 2009-10, they created a great dynamic together. Bergeron had 52 points that year and Recchi had 43. This continued into what was actually Recchi’s final season (57 points for Bergeron, 48 for Recchi). That, of course, culminated in the Stanley Cup, and by then the father-son dynamic between Recchi and Bergeron was so clear that even the NBC/Versus announcers made note of it:
7. Going Triple Gold
The Triple Gold Club is very, very hard to enter. Players must have won a gold medal at the World Championship, a gold medal at the Olympics and the Stanley Cup. Before 2011, there were just 25 members total. Following the Bruins’ championship, though, the club welcomed number 26: Bergeron. His situation is interesting–he actually won gold at the World Championship in 2004 before he played in the World Juniors in 2005. So, he accomplished one-third of Triple Gold at the end of his rookie campaign. Hand-selected by Steve Yzerman to join the Canadian team for the 2010 Olympics, he was the only member of the team who hadn’t been invited to the selection camp the previous summer. Canada won gold in front of a raucous home crowd. Then, of course, came the Stanley Cup, on which is engraved his full name, which he had to shorten to fit on uniforms: Patrice Bergeron-Cleary.
8. Fantastic at faceoffs
Bergeron tends to do very well at the faceoff dot. This past season, he won 59.3 percent of the draws he took, which was just a tenth of a percentage point behind the faceoff leader for the entire league, Jonathan Toews. Consider that Bergeron did play more games than Toews, whose season was shortened due to concussion. When Bergeron was injured and unable to take as many faceoffs during the 2012 playoffs, it showed, but he would sometimes still come out and play through the pain as he hunkered down to take very important draws.
9. Leading humbly
Though Bergeron has done great things as part of the Bruins, you won’t catch him bragging about how amazing he is and how everything good is solely because of him. Achievements like his league-leading +36 rating this season, his Selke Trophy win and even his role in the Stanley Cup championship are consistently downplayed in interviews–he will attribute them to the hard work of his teammates, the entire team working well together and/or to the fans themselves before he would ever say that it was just because of him.
10. Potential future captain
This is of course to mean no disrespect to Zdeno Chara. I personally hope he is captain for a long and fruitful time. The reality, though, is that he is 35 years old and may very well want or need to retire someday. When that day does eventually come, it would be wise for the Bruins to consider switching Bergeron’s A for a C. As covered before, he certainly has the tenure, plus he tends to better the players around him. Take his linemates Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand. This season, flanking Bergeron on either side, both of them achieved big things. Both had hat tricks, both had more than 20 goals (Seguin led the team with 29; Marchand was one goal behind) and both appeared in the top five of the league’s plus-minus, a top five list dominated by the letters BOS. As more young Bruins begin to bud and show enough promise for big-show tryouts, they may look to number 37 for guidance, and he’ll be happy to show them the way.