“As hard as it is to write, I also write knowing how blessed and lucky I feel to have had the career that I have had, and that I have the opportunity to leave the game I love on my terms. It wasn’t an easy decision that I came to lightly. But after listening to my body, and talking with my family, I know in my heart that this is the right time to step away from playing the game I love,” Bergeron wrote in a statement.
“Bergy, It’s been a pleasure to compete against you and a special honour to be your teammate over the years,” Sidney Crosby wrote via the Pittsburgh Penguins Twitter account (Crosby doesn’t use social media). “Your achievements speak for themselves, but the person you are is what stands out the most. For anyone who has played with or against you, there isn’t a better example to follow. Congratulations on a remarkable career and enjoy the next chapter, mon ami!—Sid”
Among his many, many accomplishments, Bergeron’s greatest might be winning a gold medal the IIHF Ice Hockey Men’s World Championship before winning gold at the IIHF World Juniors. He is the only player in IIHF history to achieve this “reverse double gold.”
Drafted 45th overall by Boston in 2003, he produced an immediate and surprising impact at the Bruins’ training camp that fall, making the team just two months after his 18th birthday. But after an impressive rookie season in which he scored 16 goals, he and the Bruins were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by Montreal, and the young forward accepted an invitation to play for Canada at the 2004 World Championship in Prague. His teammates included Roberto Luongo, Ryan Smyth, Scott Niedermayer, and Dany Heatley, and Canada defeated Sweden 5-3 in the finale to win gold.
The next NHL season, however, was lost to the lockout, and Bergeron played with the Bruins’ AHL affiliate in Providence, which also gave him a chance to play at the 2005 World Juniors in Grand Forks, North Dakota, alongside 17-year-old sensation Sidney Crosby. The two played on a line and showed immediate and profound chemistry. They were the dominant forces in Canada’s victory, capped by a one-sided 6-1 win over Russia in the gold-medal game. Bergeron was named tournament MVP for his 13 points in just six games.
When NHL hockey returned in the fall of 2005, Bergeron was a different player. Although only 20, he was bigger and stronger, and full of experience and confidence, and the Bruins were building a quality team around him. He scored 31 goals and 73 points, but the team missed the playoffs and he reunited with Crosby at the 2006 IIHF World Championship in Riga. They picked up where they left off, dominating the tournament and wowing crowds with their offence, finishing 1-2 in tournament scoring. Canada had a disappointing fourth-place finish, but the Bergeron-Crosby tandem was the talk of the hockey town.
The two players had something else in common—both suffered serious concussions early in their career. In the case of Bergeron, he was felled by a Randy Jones hit and missed all but 10 games of the 2007-08 season. When he returned, he was back in seemingly top shape, but another hit and another concussion put him out for a further month, after which he made a full recovery.
When the NHL shut down for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, Bergeron and Crosby reunited successfully for the greatest win of either players’ career—Olympic gold on home ice, Crosby scoring the golden goal in overtime. In truth, though, the two didn’t play together as Bergeron was slowed by injury. Back in Boston, this generation of Bruins reached its zenith in 2010-11 when it defeated Vancouver in seven games to win its first Stanley Cup since Bobby Orr’s 1972 team. Bergeron scored twice in the last, including the game winner, in the decisive 4-0 road win at Rogers Arena. That gave Bergeron all the credentials he needed to join the Triple Gold Club, the most exclusive club in hockey. He was the 4th-youngest to do so.
By this time Bergeron had settled into a leadership role with the Bruins. Although he could provide offence, he was far and away the most gifted two-way player of his generation. He could not only score; he could also keep the other team’s top line from scoring, a dual skill shared by very few. Between 2011 and 2023, Bergeron won the Selke Trophy an unprecedented six times, all the while putting up more than 20 goals each season and six times eclipsing the 30-goal mark. Indeed, he was nominated for the trophy the final 12 seasons of his career, also a record.
When the NHL returned to the Olympics in Sochi, in 2014, Bergeron was there again alongside his international linemate Crosby, and again the combination helped give Canada a second straight gold medal. The pair played together for the last time at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, another victory.
In all, Bergeron played in seven international hockey events, winning gold six times (including a gold with Canada’s 2012 Spengler Cup team). In the NHL, he appeared in 1,294 regular-season games, and late in the 2021-22 season he passed the hallowed 1,000-point mark. In another 170 playoff games, he produced 128 points, and for the last three years of his career, all spent with the Bruins, he also wore the “C” on his sweater. Not the flashiest player, he was one of the most effective, and wherever he played, victory followed.
The game, of course, will go on, but it will be a little less admirable for the loss of Patrice Bergeron.