The celebration of Boston sports has honored legends like Cam Neely and Larry Bird. For the past two years, a current Boston athlete who gives back to the community has also been recognized. The Patriots' Vince Wilfork was the first recipient of the service award in 2013.
"It means a lot - definitely a huge honor. Very grateful to get recognized like that," Bergeron said. "You know, it's definitely something I do, first and foremost, for the kids. I like to be involved, but I definitely don't do it for the awards."
"It's nice to get it, but that being said, I've established great relationships with some of the kids throughout the years and to see the difference it makes to some of the kids and their smiles on their faces after the game, it's definitely worth it every time I see that."
Win or lose, Bergeron meets with his "Patrice's Pals" after home games.
It's just one of the several charitable endeavors that Bergeron has been involved with through the years, since joining the Bruins as an 18-year-old in 2003.
His Patrice's Pals program brings patients from local hospitals and other children’s organizations to TD Garden to experience a Bruins home game. Children invited to the game watch the Bruins play in the official Patrice’s Pals luxury suite and meet Bergeron postgame where he meets them, signs autographs and takes pictures.
"It means a lot. It's something that's been established for eight years now and it's a program that means a lot to me," said Bergeron. "It definitely grew over the years and I've met a lot of great kids, and it's definitely something that's special to me, and hopefully the kids enjoy it as much as I do."
Bergeron also received the NHL's Foundation Award this past June for applying "the core values of ice hockey—commitment, perseverance and teamwork—to enrich the lives of people in his community.”
To date, children from Children's Hospital Boston, the Cam Neely Foundation for Cancer, Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center, Franciscan Hospital for Children, Joslin Diabetes Center, Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Big Brother and Big Sister of Massachusetts Bay, Oak Square YMCA, Shriners Hospital, The Jimmy Fund, Home for Little Wanderers, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, among many others, have all participated in the Patrice's Pals program.
He's also taken a leadership role in many of the Bruins' charitable initiatives, including the Holiday Toy Shopping and Toy Delivery events. In 2013, he was recognized by the NHL as the King Clancy Trophy winner, awarded annually to an NHL player who best exemplifies leadership qualities both on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.
Through his community involvement and Patrice's Pals program, Bergeron has met some incredible kids - like his presenter at The Traditon, Matt Brown.
Brown established the Matt Brown Foundation after he suffered a severe spinal cord injury during a high school hockey game when he was 15. The organization helps spinal cord injured patients and their families obtain equipment and care not covered by insurance.
Bergeron has known the young man for four years now. He first saw him in March 2010 in Atlanta, where the Norwood, Mass. native was recovering at a hospital after suffering his injury. The Bruins were in town to play the Thrashers, and Bergeron stopped by with a signed jersey and his Olympic gold medal.
"It's definitely been great to see him throughout the years. I see him at least three or four time a year, he comes in, comes to games and he's always in great spirits, he's always smiling," said Bergeron.
"He's always making sure that he tells us that he's confident in our team, and he knows more than I think we do about the Bruins," he laughed, "which is very great to see, and he's just an amazing kid and a special kid and a relationship was established over the years and we're friends now - it's great to have."
After being presented with the award, Bergeron joined Brown and event host Jack Edwards on stage for a roundtable.
"I like seeing the smiles on the kids' faces, and that's why I do it," Bergeron said during the discussion.
"It's been an honor, he's such an amazing example of courage...It's very special that I've had the chance to know Matt."
On the ice, Bergeron has amassed a Stanley Cup, two Olympic gold medals and two Selke trophies, among other accolades, but it's his work off the ice that makes him feel truly cemented in the Boston community.
"This is the second year we've had this award, and the purpose is to honor a current Boston athlete who gives back to the community in an above and beyond way," Executive Director of The Sports Museum Rusty Sullivan said, of Bergeron being chosen as the award recipient. "For Patrice, everything that he does with Patrice's Pals and all of the things he does with kids, you can't find a more deserving choice."
"He's a superstar on the ice, but he's even better off the ice - and that's saying something."
Other honorees at this year's Tradition included New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi, Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield, local Olympic gold medalist and World Judo Champion Kayla Harrison, and Olympic medalist skier Bode Miller, who was presented the Special Achievement Award by Bruins legend Derek Sanderson.