It’s hard to believe now thinking back to when Patrice Bergeron was a shy French-Canadian teenager unsure of his English and with a face full of peach fuzz, but the Bruins star center is now “the guy” on the Boston sports scene.
With Tom Brady announcing on Instagram that his time with the New England Patriots has come to an end, Bergeron is now the longest-tenured Boston athlete dating back to his rookie NHL season in 2003-04 when the 18-year-old was the youngest player in the league.
Bergeron became one of the faces of the Boston sports scene during its golden era with Brady and Bill Belichick leading the Patriots, David Ortiz serving as the grinning face of a Red Sox team that won three World Series titles and Paul Pierce synonymous with the Boston Celtics. Pierce and now Brady eventually ended their careers with different teams, and Ortiz bowed out on top as a dominant hitter just three years after winning the 2013 World Series MVP.
Now, Bergeron is at the top of his game representing the Black and Gold at 34 years old and representing the Boston sports scene as the superstar that’s been here the longest. It’s something that isn’t lost on him, at all.
“It’s crazy to think that I’ve been here for almost half my life,” said Bergeron to NBC Sports Boston. “Boston feels like it’s my home. My kids were born here. It’s very special and close to my heart. I can’t say enough about the fans, and the city. Obviously, it makes me feel a little bit older and ages me a little bit that [I’m the longest-tenured guy].”
With Bergeron signed for two more years following this season amid a year when he was on the cusp of setting a career-high mark in goals with 31 scores and 56 helpers in 61 games, it’s clear his reign as the face of Boston sports won’t end anytime soon. It’s also something that Bergeron is rightly proud of and exactly what he had in mind when he signed his current eight-year, $55 million contract with the B’s.
It’s a rarity these days and Bergeron knows it.
“It’s something that I’m really proud of. That I’ve been here my whole career and I was able to establish a connection with the city, and the people and obviously the organization, my teammates first and foremost and the friendships that I’ve built. I’m really happy with that,” said Bergeron to NBC Sports Boston. “You never know how your career is going to unfold and what’s going to happen looking forward. But I was so glad that I was able to work things out to stay here for my whole career. I’m really happy here.
“I honestly never imagined [going elsewhere]. I’ve always believed I was going to be here for my entire career. Even after my first year, there was never a doubt. It was one of those things where you know what you want, but you never know what the organization wants. I’m really glad it was mutual and that I’m still here. It’s been a great run.”
Growing up in Quebec, Bergeron watched closely when Ray Bourque left Boston after a long Hall of Fame career with the Bruins and then won a Cup with Bergeron’s favorite Colorado Avalanche team. And Bergeron watched his all-time favorite player, Joe Sakic, stick with the Quebec Nordiques hockey club he adored as a kid and then win Cups with them once they moved the franchise out to Colorado in 1995.
“Obviously I watched Ray during his whole career while I was growing up and I was really happy he went to Colorado because I was a Nordiques fan growing up. He went to my team because I continued following them,” said Bergeron to NBC Sports Boston. “But a guy like Joe Sakic? He was with the Nordiques and then went to Colorado, and he was a true gentleman. I had a chance to meet him my first year and he was so nice to me. It was a quick conversation, but he was a guy I looked up to growing up. To see what he accomplished and what he’s done with the organization now as a GM, it’s pretty impressive.”
Perhaps Bergeron will even stick around Boston and try to be like Sakic as a GM someday as well, a development that wouldn’t be surprising given his love for the game of hockey. But that’s a story for another day.
Bergeron has seen both sides of it and understands that sports are ultimately a business with winning as the ultimate goal. But No. 37 is also as ready as he’ll ever be for his role as the dean of the Boston sports scene, and the kind of guy that represents our city perfectly with his unwavering leadership, gentlemanly approach and innate goodness that goes along with being one of the best players in the NHL.
It’s your turn with the baton now, Bergie. It’s your city now.