Nearly four months after a hit from Randy Jones of the Philadelphia Flyers left him crumpled on the ice, with the hockey world wondering if he would play again, Patrice Bergeron took to the ice at Ristuccia, ecstatic to be skating once again.
“I felt good yesterday, and today I felt good again,” Bergeron said at practice Monday. “After the second time in four months, it feels great.”
Coaches and trainers are keeping a watchful eye and making sure Bergeron doesn’t push himself too hard. He, too, knows he’s got to be careful.
“It’s taking it day-by-day, and seeing how I feel at every workout, every time I step on the ice,” he explained. “It’s pretty much seeing how I react, and if I react well, we’ll do the same thing the next day.”
The Bruins center said he spent about 10 minutes on the ice on Sunday and about 20 today, as well as some time working out, but he confessed he’d like to do more.
“It’s tough for me to stop,” he said. “I want to keep going, but I’ve got to take it easy obviously.”
That’s good news, especially because Bergy said watching games after the hit was a nerve-wracking experience.
“The first time I was watching the games again, watching the guys, I was a little nervous seeing the guys going into the corner and getting hit,” he said, but confessed that he’s past that stage now.
“I think that’s just normal stuff,” he said, “and now I’m feeling good, and I’m fine watching the games.
“I don’t feel like I’m going to be scared going back to it.”
However, the oft-asked question of when he’ll be back in the game still remains. Bergeron, although eager, knows there is still work ahead.
“I’m not thinking about [playing in games] right now,” he said. “I’m thinking about getting fully healthy. I’d like to be back as soon as I can, but I don’t want to rush anything.”
The decision, of course, will be made just as much by others as it will be Bergeron himself.
“We’ll discuss with all the trainers and coaches, and we’ll see what happens,” he said.
But the mental progress he’s made has been great, as Bergeron said he can now think positively about his situation.
“The first couple months, it was tough,” he confessed. “I couldn’t see any positive side coming out of it. I was always lying down, sitting around. Headaches were coming, nausea was coming, and I was never feeling well.”
Joining back up with the team has been helpful.
“Now, I’m kind of seeing some positive,” Bergeron added. “It’s great to be back and have a chance to be back around the guys a little bit more and feel better.”
Bergeron hopes the hit that gave him a concussion and a broken nose, and which led to only a five-minute penalty and a two-game suspension for Jones, is a lesson for all generations of hockey players.
“If you see someone from behind, don’t hit him,” he said. “We’re professional athletes, and we don’t want to show these kinds of hits to kids so that they do them.”
Jones made a public apology during the second period of that infamous game, and Bergeron said that he has never felt any anger towards the defenseman. However, he never wants to see the hit again.
“It was tough to watch; I’m not going to say it wasn’t,” said Bergeron, who viewed the hit to help him remember the incident.
“It helped me to remember…some of the stuff that happened, why I was going into the corner,” he said. “From watching the replay, I kind of picked that up again, and now I know why and what I was doing before and during.”
Still, in spite of the pain he’s endured and the 50 games he’s missed, Bergeron says he’s just thankful he’ll still, someday, be able to be part of a team again.
“I was lucky the doctors were sent to me, and I really appreciate that,” he said. “I’m really happy that I can still play hockey. It’s my passion.