One of my first gigs in professional sports was working media relations for a minor league baseball team. The first lessons I was taught was many people try and get into the business simply for the glitz and glamour of getting to say they work for a certain team or work with professional athletes. If you wanted to have any sort of credibility, however, you had to leave the fan at home.
As it was simply put to me back them: Don’t be a jock-sniffer.
The smart, credible writer would probably spend his Friday preparing for the NHL Draft coming up in just a couple of hours. Myself, on the other hand? I don’t do pre-draft talk.
It stems from the overblown coverage of the NFL Draft, but there is also the fact I do not follow junior hockey at all and only dabble in college hockey, so any real pre-draft material on specific players coming out of this guy would most likely have been ripped off from somebody else and threaten my already suspect credibility.
Rather than pontificate on the future of the Boston Bruins and what they should do with the 24th pick tonight (take the best shutdown defenseman prospect on the board), I will waste your time fawning over them present. Probably not the best plan of attack as I try and build street cred, but sometimes even the best of us cannot help but gush.
I have a mancrush on Patrice Bergeron.
I am man enough to admit it. Good news is nine times out of 10 I am still able to put my big boy pants on and be subjective when it comes to observing and being critical of Bergeron and his game. That did not stop me from getting a little fired up, however, on Wednesday night when Bergeron became just the only Bruin other than Steve Kasper in 1982 to take home the Frank J. Selke Trophy as best defensive forward in the NHL.
Bergeron won the award in a landslide after leading the league in plus/minus (+36) and faceoffs won (973), while finishing second in faceoff percentage at 59.3% and leading all Bruins forwards in shorthanded time on ice. More importantly, with the win Bergeron is also stripped of his title as “Arguably the Most Underrated, Best Kept Secret in Hockey.”
Neither loud off the ice, nor flashy on the ice, it is easy to see how Bergeron could slip under the radar outside of Boston. The Quebec native, however, is worthy of a more elevated status in the NHL and quick proof of Bergeron’s excellence as a hockey player is the 2012 Vancouver Olympics and how many late, important situations in which the 26 year-old pivot was on the ice taking draws for a gold medal winning Canadian team that had the planet’s best hockey player on its roster in center Sidney Crosby.
While he may not be the point/point-plus per game scorer many hoped he would be after scoring 31 goals as an NHL sophomore and 70 points in 77 games in his third year, Bergeron still has plenty of offense in his game. These days, Bergeron is more timely than flashy. Workmanlike in his approach to the game, thriving on a staunch defensive presence and timely, effective offense, rather than making big splashes all over the ice, the joy in watching Bergeron play is in his efficiency and his completeness as a hockey player.
Even going up and down the Bruins roster, there are certainly players who could be considered more talented than Bergeron, at least offensively, but talent alone does not make you the most exceptional hockey player. While talent is certainly necessary in building a winning hockey team, Bergeron play in all three zones and all three phases of the game, excelling more often than not, is what sets him apart, even if his game does not stand out to the common man.
Those who keep a close, hockey eye on the Boston Bruins understand the importance of Bergeron and his game. He is a special breed of hockey player. Maybe he is not an elite, first line scoring talent, but Bergeron, a player along the likes of a Pavel Datsyuk or Rod Brind’Amour, is still a cornerstone player who drives an organization. A player to learn from. A player to lead. It is nice to see him finally get his due and in such overwhelming fashion. One of Boston’s best-kept secrets released to the world.
I’ll never be afraid to say how much I enjoy his game, but with a Selke in his back pocket and a Stanley Cup winning goal to his credit, maybe I will no longer be the only sucker gushing over Patrice Bergeron. Even the credible writer now must admit that Bergeron is a player worthy of being among the upper echelon of the NHL.
About the Author
Written by Matt Preston
I'm no Heminway or Haggerty, but keeping the dream alive, even if I'm pretty sure my Nana is my only follower. Self-deprecation is key, grammar is optional.