– If there is one player who could have some semblance of an idea of what Sidney Crosby
is going through in the final hours before making his comeback from a 10-month concussion recovery, it would be Patrice Bergeron
The Boston Bruins
center was Crosby's linemate on the gold medal-winning Canadian team at the 2005 World Junior Championship, and he was his teammate on the 2010 Olympic gold medal-winning Canadian team as well.
So he was a natural person for Crosby to turn to for support, because Bergeron had his own frightening recovery from a concussion he suffered Oct. 27, 2007, costing him the rest of that season.
"I guess every three or four weeks I would shoot him a text," Bergeron said Monday morning. "I was happy to see his progress and I was just saying that I wished him all the best and for him to try and stay positive and that he would get through it, he would learn from it and he would be a better player and better person. I was not trying to be a mentor or anything like that. I was just trying to be a friend because I've been through it."
Bergeron has also been through the process of trying to establish when he would be ready to play. Had his Bruins made it out of the first round of the 2008 playoffs, Bergeron would have been medically cleared to play, but he has since said that it was a good thing the option wasn't there for him because he wasn't ready.
The entire hockey world has been wondering for weeks when Crosby would be ready to make his season debut, and Crosby has been unable to provide a clear answer until now. Bergeron knows exactly why that was.
"To me, it's in your mind," Bergeron said. "In your head you'll know when it's the right timing, when everything is behind you. Sometimes when you feel tentative in practice you know it's not the right time to come back. I don't know exactly how to describe it. You just know when you're ready."
Bergeron took great pain to say that his own experience has nothing to do with what Crosby will be feeling when he finally takes the ice Monday night at the Consol Energy Center. But he has a feeling just getting this game out of the way will be a huge relief for Crosby.
"I wasn't anxious at all about getting hit," Bergeron said of his first game back, which was actually in the preseason. "It was just a matter of getting that first game out of the way, getting all the media attention out of the way also, and just going on about my business of playing hockey and having fun. That was the biggest thing I was trying to put behind me."
Bergeron said his timing suffered at first as he tried to ramp up to game speed, but it took a long time for him to feel fully comfortable on the ice even if he felt physically fine.
"It took me a while," he said. "That year I came back, I don't know exactly how long it was but it took me a long time … I felt fine on the ice, I felt 100 percent, but I didn't feel exactly myself. It was a matter of timing and rhythm and finding your game. I was doing good things on the ice, but I knew I wasn't myself."
Indeed, Bergeron's offensive numbers were way down his first season back from the concussion in 2008-09, with just 8 goals and 31 assists in 68 games. The following season he was back up to 52 points, earning himself a spot on the Olympic squad, and last season he had 57 points.
Still, Bergeron doesn't necessarily think it will take Crosby as long to find his game because he stressed that everyone reacts differently, especially when it comes to concussions.
"It's one thing to practice but it's a whole other thing to be involved in a game situation, that was the biggest thing for me," Bergeron said. "But that was my situation and you never know what will happen for Sid. I'm sure he's going to do well."