There are concussions and then there are concussions
suffered the latter, more serious kind when he was slammed into the end boards by an opponent on Oct. 27, 2007. After playing just 10 games, he missed the remainder of the season.
Bergeron, then a fourth-year player, was one of the NHL's emerging stars. He had 31 goals and 73 points in 2005-06 and 22 goals and 70 points in 2006-07.
It was pretty clear during training camp and in the early games this season that he was not all the way back to his previous level of ability. Then Bergeron suffered another concussion on Dec. 20, when he threw a shoulder check into Carolina Hurricanes
defenseman Dennis Seidenberg
. Bergeron missed 15 games, returning on Jan. 27. It's been a struggle for Bergeron, but he finished the regular season with 8 goals and 31 assists in 64 games and now looks to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In recognition of his efforts, Bergeron is the Boston Bruins
' nominee this season for the Bill Masterton
"Before the game, the Montreal media were asking me about how much Bergy's come along," said Bruins coach Claude Julien
after the Boston's 5-4 OT win vs. Montreal on April 9, a game in which Bergeron had 1 goal and 2 assists. "I don't think I have to say much about him now. They saw it first-hand. He's been really, really good for us in the last six weeks. He's getting better and becoming more and more of an impact player. Obviously, it couldn't happen at a better time."
"It's been a long year, a long process getting back to the way I am now," Bergeron said. "It has required a lot of patience. That's the key word for everything I dealt with last year, and I'm just trying to stick with it. There were times when I was discouraged because things weren't getting any better.
"You never know what the future is going to be with that type of injury so I just tried to stay positive. It takes time to heal and you just hope for the best. It was a long process and now I'm just very happy that I'm over it."
Before his injury, Bergeron's enthusiasm for hockey was evident and it was one of the things that endeared him to Boston fans. He was asked if he is again approaching hockey with that joy.
"This is what I like to do the most in my whole life," he said. "It's my passion and I've been saying that my whole life. Every time I step on the ice, I have that fire to go out and have fun, play the best I can and help my team to win. Winning is the main goal. My first four years, I was going out there with fire and passion.
"What I learned most from last year is to appreciate every practice, every game, every time I go to the rink."
Bergeron is well aware that Bill Masterton
died of a head injury while playing in an NHL game. He has worked with his helmet manufacturer to design added safety features. There were those that said he suffered his second concussion while throwing a shoulder check and others who said he clipped Seidenberg's shoulder with his jaw. That the Bruins' training staff has equipped him with heavier, stronger, more protective shoulder pads probably settles that debate.
The Bruins won the Northeast Division and finished second in the Eastern Conference in Bergeron's rookie season, 2003-04, then missed the playoffs in the next two seasons. They lost a first-round series to the Canadiens last season. He was asked how it feels to be a member of the team favored to represent the conference in the Stanley Cup Final.
"It's great to be back on top," he said. "My first year, we were second in the East and had a great team all year. We went into the playoffs as favorite and lost in the first round. It's a great feeling to win the conference after all we've been through. The plan now is to take it a game at a time and not look too far ahead."
Now, he's ready to pursue every hockey player's goal, the Stanley Cup. But in true Bergeron fashion, he thanked those who honored him.
"The Masterton Trophy nomination is a true honor and I'm very flattered," he said. "After all I've been through in the past year, I'm very happy to get the recognition because that trophy means a lot to me. I'm thankful to all who voted but all I did was try to get back to my passion, feel better and be back with the Bruins."