It wasn’t a surprise, when presenters Kathryn Tappen and Pat LaFontaine announced him as the NHL’s top defensive forward and presented him with the award that his name is now etched on in three places.
Bergeron led the League once again in faceoff percentage in 2014-15, winning 60.2 percent of his draws and winning a total of 1,175 faceoffs overall. He took more faceoffs (1,951) that any other player. Most of those started in the defensive zone.
Head Coach Claude Julien tasks him with the most defensive responsibilities of any forward, and at the most crucial times in games. When he’s on the ice, the centerman acts as a third defenseman. At the other end of the ice, the 29-year-old led all Bruins with 55 points in 2014-15, including 23 goals.
For Bergeron, though, it still came as a surprise.
“It’s always a surprise, especially when you’re up against Jonathan and Anze,” said Bergeron, seated at a podium speaking to reporters after winning the award.
They were the same reporters who helped give Bergeron the honor, as the award is selected by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association. He received 1,083 voting points, including 75 first-place votes. Just behind Bergeron, Chicago’s Jonathan Toews garnered 1,051 points and 51 first-place votes. Anze Kopitar was the other finalist.
“They’re amazing players that I respect a lot,” said Bergeron. “But it’s definitely a huge honor and I’m really happy - it goes to the help of all my teammates, obviously.”
Bergeron previously won the award in 2014 and 2012. In 2013, Toews edged him for the win with a photo finish 1,260-1,250 margin.
How much respect does the Bruin have for the Blackhawk?
“A lot. Just the way that he’s won at all of the levels he’s played and his consistency on the ice,” said Bergeron. “And just the work ethic and the way that he competes is definitely something that we should all look at and try to implement that into your game. He’s definitely a great player and I have a lot of respect for him.”
“Anytime you have a competition against Jonathan, it’s always a big challenge, whether it’s on the ice or off the ice, he’s a competitor and a winner,” Bergeron continued. “But I love watching him play and I try to take some things out of his game. Like I said, it’s an honor for me to have won the award, but just to be named in the same category as well with Jonathan and Anze.”
A look at the list of Selke winners shows only four players have won the award three times. Pavel Datsyuk took home the honor from 2008-10. Jere Lehtinen won it in 1998, 1999 and 2003, with Guy Carbonneau receiving the award in 1988, 1989 and 1992.
you look at the names who have won it three times, it’s pretty special to be now a part of it and humbling at the same time. But like I said, it’s about - winning the awards or not, I wouldn’t change the way that I play the game and I would keep doing the same things in order to try to help my team.
Another notable name on the list is current Bruins assistant coach Doug Jarvis, who won the Selke as a member of the Washington Capitals in 1984. Jarvis spends every practice working on draws with Bergeron.
“You look at the names who have won it three times, it’s pretty special to be now a part of it and humbling at the same time,” said Bergeron.
“But like I said, it’s about - winning the awards or not, I wouldn’t change the way that I play the game and I would keep doing the same things in order to try to help my team.”
There’s someone who tops the list of winners. The trophy was first awarded in 1978 to Bob Gainey of the Montreal Canadiens. He received it the first four years it was given from 1978 through 1981, winning it more times than any other player.
“It’s crazy just to think about that,” said Bergeron, when asked about the possibility of someday passing Gainey on the list. “I have tremendous respect for Mr. Gainey and it would be something very special.”
Before Bergeron’s recognition became League-wide, he was still playing the same way.
“You know, obviously outside of Boston now there’s that recognition everybody sees in Boston on a regular basis,” said Bruins President Cam Neely, on hand at the awards show to present the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for dedication and perseverance to the game, which he won in 1994.
“But on a national level, it’s certainly there for Patrice and rightfully so. He takes so much pride in his two-way game and it shows on the ice and in the recognition that he gets.”
“When people talk about what the Selke means, Patrice’s name is brought up amongst a handful of players in the League.”
“He’s well deserved to be amongst that group of players to be nominated,” General Manager Don Sweeney said before the show. “It’s no secret how important he is to our hockey club and how he’s viewed around the League and it’s great for him to be acknowledged in that way.”
That’s exactly why it’s no longer a surprise for Bergeron to get the nod. His work ethic has fortified his reputation.
“To me, it’s about taking pride in all of the little details,” he said, noting that he’s been working this offseason on his release and becoming a faster skater. “Some of them aren’t always seen or heard about but to me, they make a difference between if you win or lose, and if you help your team or not, so I think that’s really my main focus and by doing that, it helps me consistency to go along throughout the year.”
That consistency is what has bred the same storyline from season to season. Bergeron leads on and off the ice. He’s always done that, and now he’s consistently being recognized for it, whether it’s the Selke, being an NHL All-Star, being on the cover of a video game or his community contributions off the ice.
He has become a master in his role.
“I think it’s one of those positions that you’re kind of hands on, you touch basically everywhere [on the ice],” said Bergeron, asking a general question about the center position. “You’ve got to be in the defensive zone, you have to support everywhere, you have to support your defensemen, you have to support your wingers and kind of be the player that takes care of all - I don’t want to say the holes, but kind of see that unfold - defensively you have to kind of be there to take your man and also kind of release and also be there to support.”
“And on the transition, it’s the same thing. You have to go all the way down and go on the offense, but when it’s time to backcheck, most of the time, you’re going to have to be the first guy back and go down low and play defensively with the defenseman, so it’s definitely a position that’s become now pretty important for every team and you can see that most of the teams now have four great centermans.”
Bergeron’s importance to the Bruins cannot be understated.
That’s the irony of the award. For the alternate captain, the Las Vegas and NHL Awards trip is enjoyable - it’s nice to be recognized and have an opportunity to bring his brother, Guillaume, to share in the experience.
But it would be much more enjoyable to be the one toting around the Stanley Cup everywhere, like Jonathan Toews did on the red carpet and on stage.
A reporter asked Bergeron at the podium, “Does this bring light at all to a tough season?”
“I don’t know if I can really say that,” he answered. “I mean, it was a disappointing year. Anytime you don’t make the playoffs, it’s called a disappointing year.”
“I’ve always said that individual awards shouldn’t really be the way that you gage yourself - it’s all about the team so this doesn’t really put a band-aid on the year.”
There’s nothing surprising about that response.