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Player Perspective: Patrice Bergeron

Reflecting on my journey to 1,000 games in the National Hockey League

by Patrice Bergeron @NHLBruins /

Let's just say my hockey career didn't get off to the fastest start.

I was just five years old and all I wanted to do was be like my big brother, Guillaume, who was two years older and already beginning to develop his on-ice skills.

I wanted to do whatever he was doing, so after starting out playing street hockey - which feels pretty easy when you're just running around without skates - I made the transition to the ice. Literally.

I spent most of the practices in my own little world, on my butt building puck pyramids or sitting on the back of the net, not really caring about learning how to skate at all.

I would go home and my parents, Gerard and Sylvie, would tell me, 'You don't have to keep going. If you don't like hockey, it's fine. We'll try another sport.'

No way. I was having too much fun. Even if it didn't look like it.

I always told them, 'No, I love it. I want to go back.'

And back I went. Again and again.

By the end of the year, I was actually up on my feet and skating - or at least trying. I continued to improve and felt by that point I was doing just fine. (Maybe I was actually horrible. Who knows?)

But as a kid, practice can get a little boring. Playing games is what everyone wants to do. And that is really where my love for hockey began to take off.

To put it simply, over those next five years, hockey became my passion. Which brings me to where I am today.

It is hard to believe that on Tuesday night against the New York Islanders I will play in my 1,000th National Hockey League game. Reaching the NHL was, of course, always my dream and I knew in the back of my head that if I worked hard enough I would get there some day. It's pretty special that all of that hard work paid off.

That's where all those days in Quebec come back into play.

My career really elevated to another level when I was 16 and got drafted by Acadie-Bathurst of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. By that time, I was doing everything in my power to improve and get better. I was always trying to have fun and enjoy, but once I reached that point, that's when I kind of made some sacrifices - although, to me, they weren't really sacrifices at all.

But I did cut down on some of the typical teenage stuff - hanging out with my friends, going to dinners, etc. - and made sure to get to bed early and eat all the right things. I wanted to be disciplined.

And, again, I couldn't have done it without the support of my family. My parents had a tremendous impact on my ability to pursue hockey by making so many sacrifices of their own.

And while my brother was dealing with his own hockey career and trying to be the best that he could be and play on elite teams, he was also my biggest fan.

He would always take the time to work on things with me. He would come to my games and practices and really just be an amazing best friend and big brother. He had a huge impact that way throughout my youth - and even when I got here to Boston, which is where I met another one of my biggest influences.

When I arrived here after being selected in the second round of the 2003 NHL Draft, I didn't know much English. I was just an 18-year-old kid when I reported to training camp that fall and was trying to come to grips with my new surroundings.

Thankfully, Martin Lapointe came to the rescue. He was entering his 13th season in the NHL - and third with the Bruins - and was a fellow Quebec native.  

He immediately took me under his wing. He started off by giving me rides in training camp and eventually allowed me to live with him and his family. It was not something he had to do.

He had three kids at the time. I have three kids now and I know how hard it is to juggle family time and hockey, so for him to do that back then remains very special to me.

In the end, it was the perfect introduction to the Bruins culture and what playing in this city, for this team, is all about. Because before that, I don't think I can honestly say that I knew what I was getting into.

Growing up, you know about the Bruins and some of the history. But to me, the Bruins organization was Ray Bourque - another fellow Quebec native.

Once I got here, though, I realized how much deeper that history runs and what this organization represents. And what really stood out was how much the former players stand behind the current team and offer their support to the current group. It's basically one big family, which is amazing.

I continue to learn about this team's great history and that makes it even more special to be part of such an amazing franchise.

And that's another reason why I'm so proud to play 1,000 games for this organization. That means there has been a lot of loyalty on both sides. And - in addition to winning - those friendships are the most important part of it all.

I've tried to be myself and learn as much as possible throughout this journey. Those memories and the people I've met along the way have made me a better person. And I want that all to continue.

So, what's next?

Well, first of all I want to keep growing my game. That's why I think I've made it to 1,000 - I'm always wanting more.

That starts with another championship, which is a no-brainer. I know everyone's working towards that. I know there are 31 teams that are saying the same thing, but it's very much true.

When you taste it once, you want more.

But I also enjoy helping to grow the younger players. I think that's where I'm at in my career - sort of where Marty was when I arrived. I've gained a lot of experience and I've learned a lot from different older guys throughout the stages of my career that have helped me grow and mature.

That's what I'm trying to bring now. And if I can do that for some of the younger players and help them along the way, I think I'll be very happy with that.

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