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Patrice Bergeron Soaking In First NHL All-Star Weekend

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

COLUMBUS - Not many experiences are new for Patrice Bergeron, Stanley Cup winner and Olympic gold medalist.

But this weekend in Columbus serves up his first experience as an "NHL All-Star." His first bid for the All-Star Game took more than a decade to be handed out.

Bergeron, naturally, didn't find it that surprising that he hadn't yet been chosen to represent the Black and Gold and the League at the All-Star festivities.

"No, I think I was part of great teams and great teammates, so it wasn't really something where I'm necessarily surprised," Bergeron said to gathered reporters during Media Day on Friday at Nationwide Arena.

"I'm just happy to be here and trying to soak everything in. It's another thing I can say I was part of and I lived the experience and now I know how it's like and definitely something when I look back on my career, I'll be happy I've done it."

In the past year, Bergeron has received the Selke Trophy, the NHL's Foundation Award for community service, and was chosen to be the face of EA Sports NHL15 video game. Being named as an All-Star is yet another accolade for the never-flashy forward.

"I'm trying to soak everything in and it's definitely a new experience for me, so just trying to enjoy it and so far it's been great, it's been fun and I'm sure there's a lot more to come because we're just getting started."

Bergeron was set to take part in the NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft on Friday night, in which Team Toews and Team Foligno will be choosing their teams for Saturday's Honda NHL All-Star Skills Competition and Sunday's Honda NHL All-Star Game.

A smiling Bergeron was just hoping he'd be drafted at all.

"I don't mind [which team], as long as I just get drafted and I get picked, that's all I want," he laughed. "But that being said, this morning, I did a little something with Nick Foligno at the Ronald McDonald House in Columbus and we established some chemistry there, and Jonathan [Toews], I know from the Olympics, so hopefully he doesn't forget about my name."

Foligno, captain of the host Columbus Blue Jackets, may just be lobbying for Bergeron on his side.

"Yeah. Great guy. I love the way he plays, so absolutely," Foligno smiled. "It's just a matter of who can get to who first, that's the hard part."

"Great guy, just got to meet him. And it was actually a really enjoyable morning, we really enjoyed going to the Ronald McDonald House and spending some time there with the kids, it was great."

Bergeron also weighed the advantage of playing with Columbus rooting for him, and what he might bring to his team.

"It would be nice to be part of the home crowd here for the game," he said, before adding with a smile, "And I'm a good team guy too, so I guess that's something I could tell the guys."

The All-Star Weekend presents a chance for players like Bergeron and Foligno to meet for the first time. It also presents a unique time - amidst the grind of the season - for old friends to catch up.

Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury rode over NHL All-Star Media Day sitting next to Bergeron on the bus.

"I was riding on the bus with him and I asked him, you know, and he was like 'oh, it's my first time,' and I was surprised," Fleury smiled. "I think he's such a good player, both ways of the ice and he's been doing it for years now so I'm definitely happy for him that he's here."

One of Bergeron's former teammates was also happy to see him get his All-Star bid.

"I was really happy, because I remember when I got the nod [in 2011] and he didn't and I felt a little weird," said Tyler Seguin. "I didn't think that was right. But I saw him earlier this morning, I know he's happy to be here."

Seguin also offered what he's learned from Bergeron and the All-Star qualities he embodies.

"With Bergeron, it's really hard to pinpoint one thing that I learned," he said. "Overall, his general persona of a person, his leadership qualities and how he is on the ice, his two-way play."

"We were even sitting there the other night [in Dallas] against Boston and all of the guys couldn't believe that he was almost 60-percent on faceoffs, we thought it could be his best year so far in that category as well, so he never seems to be getting any slower, any worse at hockey - only seems to be getting better every year."

While faceoffs and two-way play aren't necessarily heralded at the All-Star Weekend - and in particular, during the game itself which usually turns into high-scoring affairs - Bergeron may start lobbying for competitions involving those skills.

"That would definitely be in my alley, you know. I think sticks in the lane, backchecking," laughed Bergeron.

"I don't think it's going to go through. I don't think the fans will like that one as much as the hardest shot," he went on.

"So as along as I don't have to replace the big guy for the hardest shot, I'm all set," he said, gesturing to a massive banner behind him showing Zdeno Chara giving a stick salute to the fans during the 2011 All-Star Weekend, after he kept his reign as the League's Hardest Shot.

Prior to Medai Day, Bergeron had kickstarted the weekend by spending Friday morning, well, as one might expect he would - out in the community. At every NHL event, the League teams up with the host club to leave a mark on the city. At this event, the Bruins' forward helped unveil the NHL All-Star Legacy Treehouse at the world's largest Ronald McDonald House in Columbus.

The house host kids and their families from all over the world who come to receive treatment at local hospitals. The collaboration transformed a stairwell of the house into a three floor hockey-themed treehouse for the kids to give them a welcome diversion from the stress of childhood illness.

"I'll never look at a stairwell the same after seeing this one, though, the other ones will be pretty boring," Bergeron smiled, as he spoke about the unveiling on Friday morning. "I'm pretty happy to have a chance to do this morning before the start of the rest of the weekend and it's always great to be involved in the community."

"Usually I have the chance to do that in Boston or back home in Canada and now to actually have a chance to do it here in Columbus - the first time I'm staying longer than one day, in and out for a game, so it's actually nice, and it's definitely helping a lot of kids and families and I'm just happy to be here."

The Fantasy Draft kick offs on Friday night at 8:00 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network (NBCSN). The NHL All-Star Skills Competition is set for Saturday at 7:00 p.m., with the All-Star Game beginning at 5:00 p.m. ET on Sunday. All TV coverage is provided by NBCSN in the United States (CBC in Canada).

Stay tuned to BostonBruins.com, the Bruins Mobile App and on Twitter @NHLBruins for the latest updates from our #WeekendwithBergy.

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