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Murphy: Time To Truly Appreciate Patrice Bergeron. …Or Lose Him?



Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron is not only a hockey icon but a sports icon and it is time for the Boston sports landscape to recognize that more than they do because they could be running out of time.

The Boston Bruins captain scored two goals Sunday night in a 5-3 win for the Bruins over their bitter rivals, the Montreal Canadiens following an emotional and amazing tribute to Habs legend and hall of famer Guy Lafleur who passed away from cancer this past Friday.

On more than one occasion this past weekend, Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy compared Bergeron to Canadiens legend and hall of famer Jean Béliveau.

“He’s a legend in Boston, obviously like a Jean Béliveau was here or Jacques Lemaire. [Guy] Lafleur’s center man, very good two-way player, a real professional player. It’s nice to do it here in his own home province,” said Cassidy.

Cassidy even said that they offered the Bruins captain the night off but with family in the stands and with what was planned to honor Lafleur prior to faceoff, there was no way one of the best gamers to ever play in Boston pro sports and overall, wasn’t suiting up.

“It’s game 79 for them and back-to-back. We’d even asked him if he would like a night off; we’ve got five games in seven days it’s a crazy finish. But he wanted to play, obviously, in front of his parents and and good for him,” said Cassidy.

The problem from this longtime puck scribe’s view though is that while Cassidy may be correct in calling him a ‘legend’, because he most certainly is, he’s only viewed that way amongst the real diehard hockey and Bruins fans. In terms of the Boston sports scene, Bergeron doesn’t transcend like a Beliveau or Lafleur did with common or average fans. Truth be told, Bergeron probably prefers it that way because like Beliveau, he is humble and reserved, but time could be winding down on him to get the true love he deserves from this city and New England.

Patrice Bergeron is set to be an unrestricted free agent this July, and while it may seem like a given that he will either sign a one-year deal with the Boston Bruins or retire a Bruin, there is that slight chance, the 36-year-old future hockey hall of famer could test the market if his teammates don’t help him go on one more serious run for his second Stanley Cup in the next two months.

Numerous sources have told Boston Hockey Now that if Bergeron reaches NHL free agency on July 13, obviously a plethora of teams will pursue him and at the front of the line will be the Montreal Canadiens. Bergeron’s longtime agent Kent Hughes was named the general manager of the Montreal Canadiens back in January. Prior to that, the Canadiens hired former Boston Bruins interim and assistant GM Jeff Gorton as their executive vice president of hockey operations.

The read here is that Bergeron, who is as loyal and as classy as they come, would never go to the dark side and sign with hated Habs, but could you blame him if he gives it one more whirl with a legit Stanley Cup contender – which the Bruins may not be in the coming seasons – to end his career with a sip from Lord Stanley?

Lafleur finished his storied career with the team Bergeron grew up cheering for, the Quebec Nordiques, in 1991 and it was only fitting that Bergeron, a native of L’Ancienne-Lorette, a suburb of Quebec City, was the shining star on a night dedicated to ‘The Flower’.

Prior to that amazing moment above and his clutch performance, Bergeron expressed his appreciation for a legend he never saw play but saw plenty of highlights of growing up. As a Nordiques fan growing up, Bergeron didn’t care too much for ‘Les Habitants’ but he understood the greatness of Lafleur and what he meant not only to the game but the province and culture of Quebec.

“He finished his career in Quebec with the Nordiques and that’s kind of what I remember,” Bergeron said of Lafleur who will be honored with a state funeral May 3-4 at the Bell Centre. “I was too young to remember his Montreal days. But I do remember his last game in the NHL in Quebec and the ceremony in Quebec. It’s vague in my memories but I still do remember it. He was my Dad’s favorite player growing up.

So I heard a lot about him when I was coming up and playing hockey and some of the stories, some of the things he was able to do during his career. He was an icon and someone that was, whether you were a Nordiques fan or a Montreal Canadiens’ fan, it didn’t matter. He was an icon. He was someone who was extremely respected throughout the province and I think in Canada as well, so it didn’t matter that he was on the other side of the rivalry.”

Bergeron went on to praise Lafleur not just for the hockey player he was, but for the man he became and eventually the staple of the Montreal and Quebec community.

“The sport of hockey in Quebec and Canada has a tremendous impact on the lives of many people,” said Bergeron. “I think it makes a difference. It helps people cope with different things in their respective lives. I think what Guy and some of the other greats in Montreal, the Beliveaus and Richards, I think the impact that they’ve had beyond the game of hockey, being able to connect with people and the community, has left a mark obviously and it’s something people remember.”

While too many may not realize it, Bergeron has done the same in not just the Boston hockey community but the community as a whole. Like Lafleur, he has never said no to an autograph request but more importantly to any charity the Bruins brought to him and his own charity program, ‘Patrice’s Pals

“Bergy is one in a million,” said Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman following the win Sunday. “One of the best in the game to ever play. I’m so fortunate to be a young guy soaking up everything he has to offer, he’s a true leader through and through and he shows leadership everyday with what he does. He’s one of the greatest role models you can have.”

Bergeron is now fourth in goals (397), assists (578), and points with 973 all-time for the Boston Bruins. He’s proven he’s a gamer time and time again and if you can’t see that well, then go back and watch the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Remember this?

Bergeron had already helped the Boston Bruins to their first Stanley Cup in 39 years in 2011, but this was the spring and early summer that Bergeron and the Boston Bruins helped the healing process following the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings. The Bruins eventually lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final but after nine goals and six assists in 26 games, yours truly was asked by Bergeron to hold him up as he spoke to the media with a dislocated shoulder, punctured lung and broken ribs that he had played with for two games. Talk about guts!

Tom Brady had plenty of heroic moments but he’s gone to what he so far as proven to be for now, greener pastures; David Ortiz is loving retirement and the Boston Celtics seem to be creating new icons of the Boston sports scene as they humiliate the entitled Kyrie Davis who is the complete opposite of the Bruins classy captain. So now there’s just Bergeron.

The province of Quebec and the city of Montreal know hockey greatness and when they found out how much playing in that game, for Guy Lafleur, and with his parents in the stands meant to Bergeron, they flooded my Twitter feed much more than those from Boston. That is the love and affection Patrice Bergeron deserves because as Guy Lafleur carried the torch of greatness after Maurice ‘The Rocket’ Richard and Jean Beliveau – who Cassidy compared him to Sunday – Bergeron holds the torch that was passed from Bobby Orr to Ray Bourque to him.

Treasure what lies ahead in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs because it may be all that’s left for 37 in Boston.


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