NASHVILLE — NHL All-Star Weekend always provides a laid back, relaxing atmosphere for all involved.
A chance to take a few days, take a step back from the grind of the regular season and enjoy what makes this game great: the players, and the fans.
The players’ hard work on the ice is showcased all season long, but it’s weekends like this that let them showcase their personalities, too.
Patrice Bergeron can be included in that group — even if it’s in a subtle way.
On Saturday, Bergeron took part in the NHL All-Star Skills Competition for the East. His squad took a 29-12 decision at the end of the night after showing off their skills.
Bergeron participated in Accuracy Shooting, in the Skills Challenge Relay as a one-time passer, and in the quick-fire NHL Shootout that capped off the night in front of some 17,000 fans at Bridgestone Arena.
Afterwards, the Bruins’ alternate captain stood in front of a white wall in the back of his crowded locker room with reporters sardined in.
’So, this win — or the Stanley Cup?’ he was jokingly asked by a reporter.
He smiled, of course.
“Ah, it’s tough to choose, but I’ll go with the Cup.”
Bergeron’s first order of duty for the night was the Accuracy Shooting challenge, which he participated in at the All-Star Game in 2015 in Columbus. He always tries to channel Ray Bourque and his famous 4-for-4 bid.
The challenge didn’t necessarily go as he had planned this time around, when the puck fumbled on him a bit.
“It didn’t go according to plan, let’s just put it that way,” he smiled.
“Tough one. Tough one on that,” he added. “It was all me on that, but I’ve got to — I’d like to do it again, you know. It’s one of those things, that when you miss a few early… last year was the opposite, I got a few early and felt good about it, so this year it was kind of the opposite and I can’t blame it on the passers either — it was Jags and Nicklas Backstrom, so it was all me.”
No. 37 redeemed himself, though, when he potted two beauties in the rapid-fire shootout for the East — slipping one past John Gibson after a deke, and putting another under the bar.
“The approach was trying to redeem myself from the accuracy shooting,” he laughed. “It was nice to get those two goals and hopefully I can bring that to Boston for the shootouts if we need it.”
He also set up one-timers during the Skills Relay, softly sending feeds to Steven Stamkos, Erik Karlsson and Aaron Ekblad.
“I was happy for that. I thought the guys were happy with my passes and I was trying to go really slow for them to have their time to take a good shot,” he said with a grin.
Bergeron’s favorite part of the night turned out to be first event of the night — the Breakaway Challenge.
“I thought obviously, the Breakaway Challenge was kind of the event that stood out to me,” said Bergeron. “ I thought the guys did a great job of doing some great things, but also making it funny for everyone and entertaining, so it was great.”
San Jose’s Brent Burns — a character with his long, hairy beard, no doubt — dressed up as Chewbacca after showing a montage of his “evolution” through the years and flew in on a breakaway.
P.K. Subban came out dressed like Jaromir Jagr with a No. 68 Florida jersey and a classic wig to try and emulate Jagr’s flowing locks.
“I mean, obviously Chewbacca was amazing, with the intro on the big screen and with the mask and then obviously P.K., that was a great idea and that was pretty funny, he was playing the role pretty good.”
All in all, Bergeron enjoyed himself — and it showed.
The night began with players introductions, with the announcer shouting out: “From the Boston Bruins: Patrice Bergeron!”
“It’s special. It’s always nice,” Bergeron said of the fan reaction and the atmosphere. “The fans have been great all along here, so it was fun to take that all in.”
The great experience stretches beyond the rink, as well.
“It’s been great. It’s been a lot of fun,” said a relaxed Bergeron. “I’ve enjoyed my time here and Nashville has been very welcoming and the people have been nice.”