BOSTON (CBS) — If there’s one thing sports fans hate most, it’s seeing their favorite players walk off the field, ice or court after a devastating loss, acting as if they don’t care at all.
That’s probably why Bruins fans love Patrice Bergeron so much.
At just 26 years old, there’s not much the Bruins’ center hasn’t accomplished in the hockey world. He helped lead the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup in 39 years with 20 points in 25 games last spring, won Olympic gold with Team Canada in 2010, won a World Championship gold in ’04, had 70-plus point seasons, led the league in plus-minus. He’s one of the most respected players in the sport, and he has nothing left to prove to anybody. It would be easier for Bergeron to rest on his laurels after his team was eliminated from the playoffs in overtime of a Game 7, but the Bruins’ alternate captain never takes the easy road.
“Well, it’s hard to swallow, tough to understand right now,” a disconsolate Bergeron said minutes after the sudden death loss. “I think, obviously, it’s going to take us a couple of days to sink that one in, we obviously weren’t ready for being done right now.”
As he spoke, his eyes drifted and his voice was shaky. After playing through an undisclosed injury in Games 6 and 7 that prevented him from taking faceoffs, Bergeron was a somewhat broken man standing in the Bruins’ dressing room. Despite that, he did his best to answer all questions asked of him.
“Yeah, I mean it’s, you know, it’s hard,” Bergeron said. “I think we have a lot of character in this room and we showed that all year, but it’s tough right now to, I guess swallow and to realize it’s over so I’m going to need a couple of days to answer anything.”
While a dejected Bergeron wasn’t quite able to put too much in perspective, his coach didn’t mince words when discussing the effect of Bergeron’s absence at the faceoff dot.
“Well, it had an impact, I think, as far as faceoffs were concerned. You look at tonight, and we really struggled, especially with our right-handed centermen,” Claude Julien said after the Capitals won 54 percent of Game 7′s draws. “[Chris Kelly] did a great job, and put on the right side between [David] Krejci and [Rich] Peverley, we didn’t do a very good job. That’s where a guy like Bergeron comes in handy, and when you win draws, you start with the puck, so we didn’t start with the puck as much as we’d like to tonight, and that certainly wears on you throughout the game.”
Like the rest of his teammates who spoke to the media after the game, Bergeron appeared to find no solace in any of last year’s accomplishments. Winning the Cup last June didn’t remove any of the sting this year.
“Last year, we got the bounces, we got them our way. It wasn’t the case tonight,” Bergeron said. “It’s really hard right now to think about anything else than what just happened.”
On the ice, Bergeron is a model player, valuing defense above offense while still possessing elite skills. But off the ice, he’s even more impressive. He’s a young man who nearly lost his career due to brain trauma that sidetracked him at just 22 years old. He was given a second hockey life, and he’s reached the NHL’s highest point, scoring what proved to be the game-winning goal in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last year. Yet, he strives for more and is anything but satisfied after this year’s first-round exit.
He won’t become a back-to-back Cup champion this year, but even in injury and defeat, he’s further cemented his status as the model Bruin.