The perfect player
by Andrew Podnieks|05 JUN 2019
Patrice Bergeron (pictured against Norway's Mads Hansen) is a two-time Olympic winner and aims for his second Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins.
photo: Matthew Manor / HHOF-IIHF Images
At the start of his career, Patrice Bergeron was merely the answer to an amazing trivia question, but 15 years later he has played his way into the record books and is certain to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and the IIHF Hall of Fame after he retires.

Indeed, it might well be said that he is a perfect hockey player. He is to forwards what Nicklas Lidstrom was to defencemen.

The trivia part remains amazing to this day. Bergeron is the only player to win World Championship gold before winning World Junior gold. He accomplished this feat because he was very good at a young age, and he lost a year of his NHL career because of the lockout.

Bergeron was drafted 45th overall in 2003 by Boston, a place so low given his extraordinary career tat in retrospect it makes scouts the world over look bad. As soon as he skated onto the ice at his first training camp that fall with the Bruins, it was clear that his junior career with Acadie-Bathurst in the QMJHL was over. 

In his rookie season with Boston he scored 16 goals, but the team was knocked out of the playoffs in the first round. He was asked to play for Canada at the World Championship in the Czech Republic. Still only 18, he was used carefully by coach Mike Babcock, and Canada won gold, defeating Sweden, 5-3, in the final game.

But the next season was a lost one for NHL players, and Bergeron was assigned to Providence in the AHL, so he could continue to play. Midway through the year, he was named to Canada’s junior team – why not? – and he joined a team that included Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Jeff Carter, Corey Perry, Dion Phaneuf, and Brent Seabrook.

That Canadian team is considered by many to be the greatest U20 team of all time. It won all six games by a cumulative score of 41-7 and won gold by clobbering Alexander Ovechkin and Russia by a 6-1 score. 

Crosby and Bergeron played on a line together, along with Perry, and the three were magical. They played as if they had done so for years, and Bergeron led the tournament with 13 points while Crosby had nine and Perry seven.

The next year Bergeron was back with the Bruins, and he put up career numbers in the form of 31 goals and 73 points. But equally amazing was that such a young player could play so well defensively. He was, quite simply, the Bob Gainey of the 21st century, a complimentary comparison in every way. 

The Bergeron-Crosby tandem starred again a year later at the 2006 World Championship. Although Canada finished a disappointing fourth, Crosby led the tournament in scoring, the youngest player ever to do so. 

The two were again on Team Canada at the 2010 Olympics, but Bergeron’s effectiveness was limited by injury. Nevertheless, he earned the second part of Triple Gold Club membership thanks to Crosby’s golden goal in the final game. 

The next year, 2010/11, Bergeron was instrumental in Boston’s run to the Stanley Cup, scoring the winning goal, and with that victory he became only the 25th member of the Triple Gold Club.

A year later again, he was named winner of the Frank Selke Trophy for the first time, an award he has won four times, tying him with Gainey for the most. Bergeron has also been nominated a record eight times for best defensive forward.

Bergeron also won gold at the 2014 Olympics and helped Canada win the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. In both instances, he was paired with Crosby. Indeed, Bergeron has played for his country seven times and has won gold or the top prize on six of those occasions.

The years have slipped by effortlessly during Bergeron’s career, and somehow he has now been in the league 15 years. He passed the 1,000-game mark this year with the Bruins, the only NHL team he has ever played for, and he has played more than 130 playoff games as well.

The Bruins are currently two wins away from a second Cup victory during his time, but win or lose it won’t diminish his reputation. He is a leader, a scorer, a checker, and, most important, a winner. He is not flashy, but he is one of the greatest players of this century. And his career is far from over.

After St. Louis has tied the series at two on Monday, the series continues with Game 5 in Boston on Thursday.