I’m standing in the breakfast line at the Bruins team hotel in Pittsburgh with my slice of bacon, two egg whites and a small side of potatoes feeling pretty happy because, for once, I didn't hit the buffet for a heaping portion of anything not nailed down.
But then one of the Bruins, carrying a tray with nothing on it, steps over to the head waiter, and points at a very bland looking pot of oatmeal with various accoutrements next to it labeled, "Oatmeal with Brown Sugar and Assorted Nuts."
Now, there's no way that this “fancy” hotel oatmeal, easily the blandest glop this side of concrete, has anything more than ground oats and water in it.
But just in case, the Bruin politely asks, in English that's just touched with a charming hint of Quebecois' accent, "Is there any sugar in the oatmeal, already?"
I shouldn't have been shocked at the query, nor by the identity of the man who asked the question.
That's just Patrice Bergeron
's way and for the man affectionately called "Bergy" by his teammates and coaches, one thing is certain -- on-and-off the ice, it's the little things that count.A Perfect Teammate?
At just 25-years-old, Bergeron’s 6-foot-2, 194-pound frame has been a fixture on the B’s roster since he joined the Bruins for the 2003-04 season, and on Oct. 8, the center signed a three-year contract extension with Boston.
At the time, Bergeron’s fellow B’s talked about their teammate and lauded the club’s re-signing the center and gave insight into exactly why the organization had retained his services.
“In many different ways...he's a good example [for us]," said veteran goaltender Tim Thomas
– the longest serving Bruin.
The goalie explained that it wasn’t just his on-ice example that made the difference to the Black & Gold.
"He really takes care of himself physically,” continued Thomas. "The way he works out and the way he eats, he's a good example to the other players.”
Even as he joked, B’s beat cop Shawn Thornton
wholeheartedly agreed with Thomas.
“Yeah, 'Patrick Cleary' is my Irish brother," said Thornton, with a play on Bergeron’s full last name of Bergeron-Cleary.
"I am very excited that he's going to be around for the next few years and I am hoping I get to be around as long as him.
"He's a great guy and a great teammate and is definitely one of our leaders and one of our best players.
"You can't say enough about the guy, to tell you the truth,” added Thornton.
Full time B’s defenseman and part time activist Andrew Ference
is a great conversationalist, but his description of Bergeron was succinct, powerful and to the point.
“He's perfect,” said Ference.
"Everybody is really excited for him because he deserves everything [he gets]. He works hard. He's the clearest example of how to play.
"I don't know what word best sums him up. He's a hard worker. He's got the talent and he makes it look easy...but he works his [tail] off for it,” he said.
"And you have a real respect for guys like that.”Be Like Bergy
|Bergeron, center, tries to put the puck past goaltender Tuukka Rask as Andrew Ference defends during training camp in Boston Saturday, Sept. 18, 2010. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson) |
The respect doesn’t stop in the locker room.
The B’s coaching staff, most especially Strength & Conditioning Coach John Whitesides, see Bergeron as a prime example of what it takes to succeed in the NHL.
“Everything Bergy does is prototypical of the perfect player off the ice,” said Whitesides.
“You know it’s funny. We were talking the other day about…guys that were really good rookies and I was naming off some names, and they said, ‘Well, how about Bergy?'
“And I was like, ‘Oh yeah, but Bergy is the same as he was when he was a rookie and he’s never gotten away from that.’”
Whitesides has seen a lot of players in Black & Gold come and go, but to him, Bergeron continues to shine because of his work ethic and attitude on the ice, in the gym and on the track.
“His work ethic has gotten better every year instead of evening out,” he said.
Whitesides went on to say that he uses Patrice as a teaching model for the B’s youngest players.
“I ask them who’d they like to emulate,” said the strength coach. “And they start saying, ‘Oh, Steve Yzerman.’ And this and that and I say, ‘We have guys you know on our team that you could emulate, you know, and Bergeron is the top of the list.’100 Percent
Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien doesn’t hold many punches, but the B’s bench boss isn't afraid to give a compliment either.
In Bergeron’s case, Julien had plenty of good things to say.
“Relentless,” was the word that Julien used to describe Bergeron.
“The first time I saw him he was 18-years-old, in his first year with Boston and it was in Montreal.
“He was really impressive as a young 18-year-old, the way he competed. He went into traffic and he didn’t back down and he wasn’t intimidated by anybody or anything.”
Since becoming the Bruins head coach, Julien explained that Bergeron is a known commodity in a sport filled with unknowns.
“He’s one of those guys that’s totally committed 100-percent into his work,” said Julien. “Whether it’s taking care of himself with rest, nutrition -- or when he’s on the ice, there’s only one way with him. That’s all out. Not just in games, but in practices.
“That’s one guy you know, whether he has a better night than another or whether it’s not as good, his compete level and his work ethic will always be there.
“So that’s a guy that coaches like to rely on a lot,” he said.Always Ready for the Game
When I asked Bergeron questions about this piece and about the anecdote of the oatmeal, he was, of course, either cooling down from practice or working out on a stationary bike.
“When I was growing up, I took a lot of pride in trying to improve and get better and work hard...” - Patrice Bergeron
He laughed when he was told what I was thinking when I saw the scene in the team hotel. But Bergeron is used to the questions and the comments. His way is a hard way and not necessarily for everyone. However, Patrice sounds like a man determined to play for as long and as hard as he possibly can and he is using the work ethic that got him to the NHL to keep his game at an elite level.
“I think it’s something that I guess when I was growing up, I took a lot of pride in trying to improve and get better and work hard,” said Bergeron of his habits. “My parents showed me at a young age… [that] If you start something, you’ve got to give it your best.
“And once I started, my coaches, as I was getting older like in Juniors and even in midget play, they were just saying, ‘Make sure you eat well and make sure you do the right things before games, go to bed early,’ and all that stuff.
“I decided I was following the rules, I guess, and I just kind of put emphasis on that.
“Once I got drafted is really when I turned it on and hired a nutritionist and a personal trainer to make sure I was taking the next step and doing everything in my power to get to my goal which would be the NHL,” he said.
Nutrition-wise, Bergeron is, as Coach Julien said, relentless. Asked when the last time he had fast food, Bergeron smiled and said, “It’s been a while.
“To be honest, I guess I did maybe probably once or twice in the past three or four years.
“But I don’t really remember when, you know?”
Beyond the nutrition, Bergeron explained that when he was drafted he took everything much more seriously.
“I realized I could get there and I could get to the next level,” said Patrice. “I was always at the gym, but I felt that with a personal trainer, I would do the right things and they would teach me really what to do.
“Now, I’m working out with other NHL’ers and they have the same goal that I do. Having that makes you want it even more and sometimes you see them putting more weight than you on certain drills, so you want to catch up.
“It’s just, I guess, a challenge for me in the summer and it helps me get ready for the season,” he said.
That’s where eating right helps the most.
“I think it’s your fuel for your body and it’s important that you eat the right things.”
And for Bergeron, doing the “right things” also includes getting enough rest.
“I think it’s important, getting my sleep,” he said. “That’s just me though...I don’t know if it’s something that everyone needs.
“From my standpoint, I think I need a good amount of sleep and having a little nap in the afternoon and making sure I’m ready for the games.”
From this standpoint, and from the standpoint of everyone around the B’s, it looks as if Bergeron is always ready for the games.
Just hold the brown sugar.