Could the Boston Bruins lose their second captain in less than two years after the 2021-22 NHL season?
Could Patrice Bergeron follow the lead of his former teammate David Krejci, who played out the final season of his contract and went home to continue his hockey career?
The former became a real possibility on Wednesday when Bergeron, 36, told the media that he’s putting off talks on a contract extension and will play out the final season of his contract.
“It’s something that a lot of people have asked me this summer, and the way that I approach it this year is to just concentrate on this year,” Bergeron said when asked for an update on any talks for a contract extension “I have a year left on my contract and I think it would be useless for me to think about the [long term] future. I want to create something special. We want to work toward winning a Stanley Cup.
I know everybody says that, but that’s definitely our goal as a team. I think it’s better to be in that group of [playoff] teams and I think that’s where my focus is right now. I’m going to play out this year and then talk about [contract matters] after. Bergeron said just prior to the annual Boston Bruins golf tournament on Wednesday.”
Hmmm. …where have we and when did we hear that before from a Boston Bruins player?
“Well, I’m committed to the Boston Bruins. I’m’ committed to Boston fans and the city of Boston. I think I’ve expressed that a number of times,” former Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said just over a year ago. “I’m excited about the future of this team and we’re going to do whatever we can to win another Stanley Cup.”
Just under three months after that quote, Chara and the Boston Bruins thanked each other and mutually parted ways. An era that saw the Bruins become relevant in Boston and the NHL again, and brought the city its first Stanley Cup in 39 years had begun its swan song and that song continued to approach a crescendo this past summer. After playing out the final season of his contract, longtime Boston Bruins center David Krejci and another member of that 2011 Stanley Cup team, moved on from the Bruins to continue his career in his native Czech Republic.
It should be noted that Krejci and the Bruins never allowed Boston Bruins fans and the media to assume he would come back and play another season for the Bruins. They were both very non-committal. That being said, it won’t be surprising if Bergeron and the Bruins paint the same picture that Chara and the B’s did before he ended up signing with the Washington Capitals. That won’t be because they’re lying but rather, they, like anyone who has covered this team since the 2003-04 season, when a bright-eyed kid from L’Ancienne-Lorette, Quebec arrived in Wilmington, MA and made the Bruins roster out of camp.
Yours truly interviewed Bergeron after he came off the ice at Ristuccia Arena and I’ll never forget what he said with a laugh then:
“I grew up cheering for the Nordiques, so I already hate the Montreal Canadiens. I’m going to be the perfect Bruin.”
He definitely delivered on that promise but that brings us back to the second question I began this column with. Will Bergeron decide to go home and continue his career in Quebec City after this season?
If he decides to play another season after 2021-22, it won’t be with another NHL team like Chara did except if, and at this point, a huge if, the Arizona Coyotes can’t find a new home in Arizona and relocate to Quebec City for the 2022-23 season. The NHL bringing back the Nordiques is the only way this scribe could envision Bergeron not coming back to the Bruins and playing for another NHL team.
Just in case you missed it in the news recently, the city of Glendale, Arizona announced last week that it will not renew its agreement with the Coyotes franchise to play at the Gila River Arena beyond the 2021-22 season. The Coyotes then put a bid in for a new arena in Tempe, Arizona, and are awaiting a decision. If they’re denied, then they may try some other locations in Arizona but NHL sources tell Boston Hockey now that while the league wants them to stay in the desert, they’re not going to let this become an even bigger circus and isn’t afraid to relocate. Houston and Kansas City are still more likely destinations for relocation but the state-of-the-art Videotron Centre in Quebec and just minutes away from where Bergeron grew up playing hockey, will be considered.
Let’s get one thing straight, Boston Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron will always be a Bruin. Bergeron’s No. 37 will hang from the TD Garden rafters within months of his retirement and a job on the coaching or development or management staff for the Boston Bruins will be waiting for him if he wants one. That being said, if the Nordiques became a team again, just as it was for Krejci, the gut feeling here is that the allure to go home and still play in the NHL will be too much for Bergeron to resist. In 16 NHL seasons for Bergeron, that has never been an option. If that option presents itself and his body can still handle it, don’t be surprised if Bergeron finishes his career at home.
One thing Bruins fans shouldn’t worry about though is Bergeron finishing his career with that team he’s hated all of his life!