By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Boston Bruins made the obvious official Thursday and named Patrice Bergeron the 20th captain in franchise history.
And it was Bruce Cassidy, Bergeron’s coach for almost four years, who said what just about everyone was thinking.
“I can’t say nothin’ but positives about Patrice,” Cassidy, who first met Bergeron when he worked him out during Bergeron’s recovery from a concussion in the 2011 playoffs, said. “Well deserved honor for him. We still got a lot of good leaders in that room, but we’ve identified him as the guy to wear the C, and rightfully so.”
But Cassidy was alone in his praise of Bergeron as both a leader and person.
“You can’t say enough about this guy,” David Krejci said. “He shows up every night to play games, shows up every practice, not just on the ice but off the ice. He’s got the right things to say all the time.”
“He has all the attributes of a phenomenal leader, on and off the ice,” Marchand said. “He’s been meant to be a captain 10 years ago. It’s been a long time coming.”
It’s stuff like that makes Bergeron’s transition from alternate captain, a position he held from the start of the 2006 season to yesterday at 11:08 yesterday, to captain all the easier.
“To me, it’s to be myself,” Bergeron said when asked of his goals as captain. “I think leadership is all about making sure you’re able to surround yourself with great people, which I am, and also be able to connect with guys. [And] to speak from the heart when it’s needed, lead by example. I don’t think I’m gonna change any of that stuff.”
One of the most important things to Bergeron is communication and letting it be known that everybody has a voice. This was something that was important during Zdeno Chara’s 14-year run as captain, and something Bergeron, often considered Chara’s co-captain, wants to remain a fixture within the B’s locker room.
“It goes back to connecting with the guys and making sure they understand and realize that this is their team just as much as [mine] and they take ownership of that, ” Bergeron offered. “Everyone’s important and is valued. It’s all about connecting with them and making sure we’re on the same page and buying in to what we’re trying to establish. For me, it’s sending that message, reaching out to guys, and make sure they realize they can all take charge and be themselves and find ways to understand each other.
“I’m gonna try to communicate and make sure we connect as a team and create something special moving forward, but that being said, I think there’s a culture that’s been established here for many, many years. There’s been tremendous and amazing leaders and captains over the years and Zee was one of those guys where there’s been a culture that’s been in place and we’re gonna try to carry that on.”
A Bruin for his entire 17-year career, Bergeron also knows he’s fortunate to have learned from former teammates over multiple eras of B’s hockey and regimes.
“I can’t deny that [Mark Recchi] has had a tremendous impact on me to help me find my voice,” Bergeron, who had Recchi on his right wing when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011, said. “Marty Lapointe was all about accountability and doing things the right way as a young guy coming in and teaching myself, and all the young guys, how to act as a professional. Zee was the culture that he brought and his competitive nature but also how he was demanding and being able to get the best out of players.”
The voices in that group alone are something; Recchi was part of the equation that helped put the Bruins over the top during their first window from 2009 through 2011. Lapointe, while teammates for just one season (2003-04), let Bergeron live with him. And Chara and Bergeron wore letters together during Boston’s rise from rebuilder to perennial Stanley Cup contender, with one championship and three appearances from 2011 to 2019.
Over time, Bergeron has taken lessons from those players, as well as veteran leaders who didn’t wear a ‘C’ but played critical roles for the Bruins (Andrew Ference and Gregory Campbell were two of the names brought up by Bergeron in that respect), and helped guide the next wave of B’s stars in as true professionals.
There’s perhaps no greater example of that than Brad Marchand, who’s gone from pest to superstar as Bergeron’s left wing.
“I think the biggest thing is he shows you how to be a professional,” Marchand, who has played with Bergeron since his rookie season, said. “When you look at him, on and off the ice, he’s such a professional with the way he carries himself, the way he treats people. When you see him, even in uncomfortable situations, he carries himself so properly. I think that’s one thing that you learn as a young kid is that you have to go through certain uncomfortable situations on and off the ice and you have to carry yourself like a professional.
“He’s such a great example of that.”
That’s just a small piece of The Bergeron Effect. And what keeps a locker room healthy.
“It’s always been about speaking from the heart and connecting with guys and showing empathy and making sure the environment around those guys is something fun to be around and wanting them to come back and be the best version they can be,” said Bergeron. “It’s how I wanna do this and I’ve learned so much, it’s been a tremendous help to help with my leadership because that’s how you grow as a person, and that’s how you grow as a leader: by learning from others. And I’ve had some tremendous leaders that I’ve had a chance to play with.”
Which is something Bergeron hopes his eventual predecessor can say when the time comes.