BOSTON – It was a tiny moment from last weekend’s Boston Bruins/Buffalo Sabres game with Patrice Bergeron and Tage Thompson, but it was caught on camera and had people wondering what it was all about. Cameras caught opposing centers Thompson and Bergeron in a shared moment prior to a face-off with Bergeron giving the young Sabres pivot a couple of encouraging words and a few taps with his stick before both centermen got down to business at the KeyBank Center.
Tage Thompson was a 7 year old kid hanging around the Providence Bruins locker room in 2004-05 when his dad Brent played with a teen-age Patrice Bergeron during the lockout. Cool moment for both players with Bergeron as always exuding class and genuine warmth https://t.co/HR4Awv1Bai
— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) November 13, 2022
Bergeron was doing most of the talking, but Thompson uttered a few words back to the Boston Bruins captain before they settled in for the draw.
So what were the two players talking about exactly?
On it’s face it might have appeared to be simply a veteran future Hall of Fame NHL player showing some respect and a few complements for one of the young guns in the league as the 25-year-old Thompson makes a name for himself in Buffalo.
But it was so much more than that on Hockey Fights Cancer night in Buffalo with the Boston Bruins.
It’s no surprise that it was some kind of classy action from Bergeron and a heartwarming gesture between a pair of players with a relationship outside of being fierce competitors. Bergeron confirmed to Boston Hockey Now that he was giving words of encouragement to Thompson after hearing that the Buffalo Sabres center’s wife Rachel had been cancer-free since successful surgery to remove a cancerous mass from her right leg a couple of years ago.
The 37-year-old Bergeron was simply and thoughtfully asking how she was doing.
“His wife was diagnosed with cancer a couple of years ago and I think she was cancer-free now. So I was just saying that I was thinking of her and happy for them,” said the always incredibly thoughtful Bergeron exclusively to Boston Hockey Now. “I wasn’t sure that she was cancer-free, and he said that [to me that she was cancer-free] so I was super happy for him, for her and for their family. It was cool.”
According to this piece from last month, Rachel has been cancer-free since the surgery for bone cancer and will be deemed completely cancer-free following next screening in summer 2023. It was a truly wonderful on-ice conversation that Thompson confirmed with the Buffalo News when asked about it on Monday as well.
“It’s big,” Thompson told The Buffalo News following Sabres practice on Monday. “Obviously, he didn’t have to say anything. He kind of went out of his way to check on her and ask how she’s doing. It’s just the kind of guy he is. He’s just a genuine guy, cares about other people.”
It all comes down to a longstanding relationship between the two after a teenaged Bergeron played with Tage’s father, former NHL defenseman Brent Thompson, with the Providence Bruins during the 2004-05 lockout season, and got to know both Tage and Tyce as little hockey-loving tykes hanging around the rink. Tage was a much smaller version of himself back then as a 7-year-old kid tagging along with the pro hockey players, and pretty much transforming the Dunkin’ Donuts Center into their own knee-hockey rink.
“He and his brother were playing knee-hockey in Providence all year, so I have great memories. He’s a monster now and he was like ‘this’ high back then [while pointing to his waist],” said Bergeron to Boston Hockey Now. “He must have been 6 or 7 back when I was playing [with his dad] and now playing against him is kind of full circle.
“It’s one of those things where it hits you a little bit. I was talking about that to start the year that [Fabian] Lysell was born the year that I was drafted. That was an eye opener and to have Tage on the ice and doing so well in the league and coming into his own, is so impressive. I feel like I kind of know him a little bit [from] knowing him as a kid when I was in Providence, so it’s pretty special.”
One other thing that’s special: Bergeron and his genuine care and compassion for everybody that he comes into contact with during his nearly 20 plus years as one of the NHL’s best centers, and an even better person with this moment as just another shining example.