|A look back at what Patrice Bergeron has overcome||10.08.10 at 12:32 pm ET|
PRAGUE — There are plenty of determining factors that go into whether a team looks to sign a player, whether in free agency or through the process of re-upping their own guys. One factor that can turn an enticing player into a heaping bowl of plutonium is the three most dreaded words in all of sports: history of concussions.
Patrice Bergeron, who on Friday agreed to a three-year extension with the Bruins worth $15 million, unfortunately is quite familiar with concussions, having suffered a brutal Randy Jones hit from behind on October 27, 2007. Just 10 games in, Bergeron was done for the season and would not return until the following campaign.
“I still remember that arena being so quiet as a coach, and the players. Really it seemed to rattle the whole bench. The first thing you want to do when the game is over is not even talk about the game, but go and see him and make sure that everything’s fine, because it was a real close call. It was one that could have easily ended his career,” Claude Julien said on Friday. “The thing that we really wanted to do was make sure that the person was taken care of first and foremost.”
Julien added that despite Bergeron wanting to return for the playoffs that season, much like Marc Savard did this past season, the Bruins decided that taking the entire season and offseason to get his health in tip top shape was the safest route for a guy who was just 22 years of age and dealing with such a serious injury.
“We were going to be as patient as we needed to be, we were going to be as supportive as we needed to be,” Julien said. “He never played the rest of that year. I know at one point he wanted to come in and play in the layoffs, but at that point we made a decision that it would be better off not to and wait a little bit more.”
Bergeron spoke on Friday of how much the team looking after his wellbeing rather than trying to get as much production as they could meant to him. Sitting at his press conference at O2 arena in Prague, he made it clear just how respected and valued the team’s treatment of him feel in the post-concussion process.
Of course, the Jones hit would not be the last of Bergeron’s dealings with concussions. A December 2008 collision with Dennis Seidenberg, then of the Hurricanes, left him once again flat on the ice with what would later be determined to be his second concussion in the span of 15 months.
Julien said that it was natural to “start worrying again” after the Seidenberg collision, but gave Bergeron much-deserved credit for letting things like his two-way style of play, as well as his leadership, define who he’s been as a player rather the concussions. As the Savard situation has illustrated all too clearly, concussions are a messy affair, and one that makes projecting the future almost impossible. With Bergeron primed for a big season and still with room to grow offensively, the Bruins couldn’t have hoped for a better result in wake of two of the darker moments in recent franchise history.
|Recchi: Re-signed Bergeron has a lot to teach youngsters||at 9:18 am ET|
PRAGUE — The all-knowing Mark Recchi can speak of the goings on of the NHL with expertise, no matter what the individual subject may be. He’s seen it all, done it all, and knows when he sees something unfolding the right way. Entering his 20th season in the league, Recchi saw just that when word came down that his center in Patrice Bergeron had inked a three-year extension that will keep him in Boston until 2015.
“It’s awesome for Patrice and he deserves it. He’s a wonderful kid and he’s a great person for the organization to keep here,” Recchi said. “I think it’s a great deal for both [sides]. He could have tested the market and gotten a lot more [money] and a lot more years. It just goes to show you the commitment that Bergy has to this organization and to the guys in this dressing room that he was willing to do this.”
Indeed, a cap hit of $5 million for a player who, despite having a history with concussions, has appeared in the preseason to be primed for a monster year, would suggest that Bergeron could have potentially made more money on the open market. Bergeron cited his comfortability with the organization and confidence in the Bruins’ future as the reasons that he had decided he would sign an extension with the Bruins “no matter what” the final offer was.
Bergeron and captain Zdeno Chara had been the team’s two big names entering the final year of their contracts, with Michael Ryder, Marco Sturm, Mark Stuart, and Recchi also unrestricted free agents at season’s end. With the team having yet to agree with an extension to keep Chara around, Recchi pointed to Bergeron’s signing as a commitment from both sides to keep the team’s top players together for years to come.
“Basically we’ve got the core guys. I’m sure Z at some point will get done, but their core guys are locked in, and a lot of teams can’t say that,” Chara said. “A lot of teams have to make a lot of changes throughout the year every summer, and the Bruins are going to be fortunate when they don’t have to. Guys are willing to accept a little bit less to stay and be part of something they think is really good. Give credit to the organization that guys like Bergy trust Peter that he’s going to continue to build a good team.”
Asked where Bergeron falls among the young leaders that he has played with throughout his career, Recchi spoke very highly of his center. Bergeron was mentored well by Martin Lapointe, whom, along with Glen Murray and Recchi, he thanked for showing him how to handle the profession. Recchi said that it has been “awesome to watch him evolve into” the player and person he is today, and didn’t feel that at 25 years of age Bergeron is too young to mentor youngsters as they funnel in.
“The way he handles himself professionally on and off the ice is incredible. He’s a great kid, and we have some young players that should watch him every day. Tyler [Seguin] should watch how he prepares, watch how he works, watch how he does everything, and watch how competitive he is.”
|Bergeron: ‘I was going to say yes no matter what’||at 8:34 am ET|
PRAGUE — Patrice Bergeron boasted both a new contract (three years, $15 million) and optimism for the direction of the franchise as both he and general manager Peter Chiarelli adressed reporters in a press conference following Friday’s skate. Now 25, Bergeron will play out the last year of his current contract at a $4.75 million cap hit before coming in at $5 million in each of the next three seasons. Bergeron’s camp and Chiarelli negotiated the deal throughout the offseason, but the center made clear that he knew the outcome of the negotiations long before the agreement was reached.
” I knew it was going to get done, because at the end of the day I was the one who was going to say yes no matter what. I just wanted to stay in Boston and I think Peter and the Bruins knew it all along.”
Sitting alongside Bergeron, Chiarelli sang the center’s praises, summing hip his value to the team as being more than statistical output.
“He’s got a lot of elements to his personality, to his game, that are terrific, really,” Chiarelli said. “When you look at this work ethic in practice, look at him doing the drills, day to day showing up and getting them right and leading the charge, he’s a consummate professional and a terrific player and a terrific young man.”
|Bruins re-sign Bergeron||at 3:42 am ET|
PRAGUE — The Bruins and center Patrice Bergeron have agreed to a three-year contract extension worth $15 million. The deal will carry an annual cap hit of $5 million, making him tied with Tim Thomas for the team’s highest cap hit in the 2011-12 season (captain Zdeno Chara remains unsigned following the coming season). RDS was the first to report the story.
Bergeron was set to become a free agent at season’s end, and after a very impressive preseason, the Bruins avoid the risk of seeing the 25-year-old center put together a career year and leave via free agency. Chara now becomes the team’s top priority regarding contracts, as he is in the final year of a five-year, $37.5 million deal signed back in 2006.
Bergeron’s career high for points in a season is 73, which he recorded in 2005-06, his second NHL season. In 73 games last season, Bergeron picked up 52 points before adding 11 more in 13 postseason games.
Both Bergeron and general manager Peter Chiarelli are set to address the media today, so stick with the Big Bad Blog for everything from both sides following the Bruins’ noon skate (6 a.m. EST).
|Blake Wheeler using his size, rounding out his game||10.05.10 at 6:44 pm ET|
LIBEREC, Czech Republic — Blake Wheeler hasn’t really gotten a fair shake from fans in Boston. After a 21-goal rookie year with the Bruins, Wheeler turned in 18 in his second season and was often criticized by fans for his lack of physical play. This preseason, he’s shown a more physical edge that he had vowed in the offseason to return with. Fans didn’t take notice of his use of his size in his two preseason showings at the Garden, but it likely won’t be long before they do.
A strong camp from Wheeler has landed the third year forward on the second line with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi. He picked up a goal in the team’s 7-1 victory over Liberec HC, and after seeing the five-point explosion from Bergeron should be licking his chops at the idea of skating with him as his center. Things are looking up for Wheeler, who prior to Tuesday had been skating with Tyler Seguin and Michael Ryder on the third line.
“I feel great on the ice. I feel like I’m playing with a lot of speed, and confidence is up there now,” Wheeler said. “Playing with Bergeron and Recchi really makes the game a lot easier. I think we had a really good game today and I’m excited to be playing with these guys and hopefully we can really get some good chemistry going.”
As for the aspect of physicality, Wheeler trusts that by utilizing his 6-foot-5 frame he can become the well-rounded player that made him a top-five pick in the NHL draft. In addition to setting up a tarp to shoot against in his garage, his main focus was toughening up.
“I felt that if I could be more of a presence physically, a lot of the other things in my game would follow suit,” Wheeler said. “Just consistency-wise, that’s something you can bring every night. No matter how you’re feeling, no matter how you’re playing, you can be a physical presence and contribute to the game that way. I’m just trying to focus on the things that I can control and let the rest follow suit.”
Bergeron scored in the second and third periods, while also assisting Seguin’s goal, a snipe from the point on the power play, as well as tallies from Jordan Caron and Blake Wheeler. Trade acquisitions Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell also picked up goals in the first and third periods, respectively.
Tim Thomas looked very sharp in net for the Bruins, playing the entire game and looking particularly impressive in a first period in which he made 14 shots. He allowed just one goal on the night, an Andrej Podkonicky strike into second period.
From the Liberec the Bruins will travel an hour south to Prague, where they will continue to practice before opening the regular season with two games against the Coyotes on Saturday and Sunday.
|Shawn Thornton and Patrice Bergeron: Irish brothers?||09.30.10 at 7:35 am ET|
BELFAST — The European trip to kick off the Bruins’ 2010-11 season can be viewed as being about a lot of things. From seeing new places to seeing unfamiliar teams in preseason and getting a good deal of team bonding in, there are plenty of story lines that run congruent with the team’s 10-day trip. Just days away from the Bruins’ exhibition game with the Belfast Giants in Northern Ireland, one player comes to mind for embracing his family ties and soaking up the tradition. That player, of course, is Shawn Thornton, but should there be more?
Thornton’s mother, born in Belfast, flew in on Wednesday to stay with her cousin while her son is in town. Given all the excitement throughout his relatives, the veteran forward is expecting 20 family members to both show him around and attend Saturday’s game. Reallocation of the players’ tickets certainly came into play as a result.
“There’s a lot of guys who did not need tickets for this game. Thank God,” Thornton said with a smile. “I’ve got the most.”
Yet while Thornton is eager to see family members, some of whom he’s never met, there’s another Irish relative he’s excited for, and one Bruins fans might be a little more familiar with: Quebec’s own Patrice Bergeron.
“My grandfather was born in Northern Ireland. He came over a long time ago with his parents. It’s been a long time, but it’s going to be pretty special to go there,” Bergeron said of the surprising bloodlines.
Born and raised in Quebec and a star of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League as a teenager, there isn’t much about Bergeron’s upbringing or time in the game that screams “Northern Ireland.” Though Bergeron isn’t sure if he actually still has any relatives in the area, Thornton can assure him that he has at least one.
“I mean, we’re Irish brothers,” Thornton said. “I call him Patrick Cleary, not Patrice Bergeron, so we’re probably related back from back there at some point.”
And thus perhaps the most unlikeliest of connections, even by sarcasm’s standards, is made. Both players are Canadian-born, of course, and neither have been to Belfast before. Though they’ll be there for just three days before departing for Prague on Sunday, the anticipation isn’t lost on either of them.
“It will be good to see some family,” Thornton said. “I’ve met some of them — they used to come over and visit my grandmother over time — so it will be good to see them again and hopefully get some local knowledge of the city.”
Bergeron, whose father’s last name actually is Cleary, is definitely excited for the trip, though it’s unlikely he’ll play the role as resident Belfast expert like Thornton hopes he will. Asked if he and Bergeron would embrace the culture heavily through the wearing of scally caps to truly reflect their Irish heritage, Thornton didn’t hide mask his pride a bit.
“I’ve got tons of them. We’re going to look for some while we’re over there, but I’ll be bringing a few just in case,” he said.”
Especially in the case of Prague, many players have some places in mind when it comes to sight-seeing. Bergeron spoke of how beautiful he found the city when he last played there in 2004 representing Canada in the World Championships.
For the Belfast leg of the trip, Thornton has put forth an effort in looking up interesting spots to take teammates during the team’s three days in Northern Ireland. That doesn’t mean he still won’t rely heavily on the natives in his family to direct him.
“I’m sure I don’t retain as much information as I should when I [research places], so I’ll probably just play it by ear when I get over there,” Thornton said. “I’ve got aunts and uncles that will be taking me around. I’m sure their knowledge of it is better than what I can find on Wikipedia.”
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