Bergeron Battled Through Broken Rib, Torn Cartilage
BOSTON, MA - In the Stanley Cup Final, hockey players play hurt. It's a fact. A handful of the athletes - maybe - are feeling 100 percent, and they're usually the healthy scratches sitting up top.
So when Patrice Bergeron suffered a broken rib and torn cartilage in Game 5, and a separated shoulder in Game 6, trying to push his Bruins to the brink and force a seventh back in Chicago, he battled through it.
But for No. 37 and the Black & Gold, the battle ended late Monday night, in a heartbreaking finish. As the clock ticked down, with the B's leading 2-1 in the final 1:30 of regulation, Game 7 was in their sights.
Just over 30 seconds later, it was taken away from them in a flash. A final push from the Hawks and some help from the hockey gods, and Chicago had two goals within 17 seconds. They won 3-2 to claim their franchise's fifth Stanley Cup. The Garden crowd was stunned; Bergeron and the Bruins were stung.
After the B's methodically skated through the handshake line (an unrivaled gesture of sportsmanship in sport) and heard the Boston faithful chant "Let's Go Bruins" for the last time this season, they made their way through the tunnel, down the hallway, and quietly into their locker room.
When the dressing room was open to the flood of media, it was obviously a somber sight.
Soon, Bergeron came out from the training area and walked across the room to his stall, where the reporters calmly swarmed.
But, the always affable alternate captain, a Bruins hat on his head, his gash from last series still unhealed on the bridge of his nose, could not find much to say.
"There’s not many words that can be said right now," he got out, a hoarse sound in his voice, a distraught look in his eyes.
"It’s definitely tough to lose, especially at this time, after everything we’ve been through. There’s not many words that can be said right now. It’s tough."
For Bergeron, he wasn't about to offer up his injuries. For him, this wasn't the time for any sort of excuse - though, to anyone else, it wouldn't have been seen as such.
The center had been taken to a Chicago hospital on Saturday night during Game 5, when he left the ice early after only skating two shifts in the second period. It was a surprise when he was deemed questionable for the do-or-die match on Monday night, after most had expected the worst.
"I don’t like to do that tonight, but I know there’s some media that might not be there on Wednesday," said Bergeron, referencing the B's last media availability of the season.
"So, I had a broken rib, torn cartilage and muscles, and I had a separated shoulder."
Still, he managed to fight through.
"Well the shoulder was tonight so, yeah, a lot of help from the medical staff."
Yeah, and a whole lot of heart.
"It’s the Stanley Cup Final, everyone’s banged up, everyone wants to help the team and obviously I couldn't do that in Game 5. It was mostly because they were worried about my spleen being hurt, so that's why we had to go to the hospital."
"But everything was fine so it was just the ribs, and the muscles, and the soft tissue. So obviously I would’ve liked to stay in it, but I was going through a lot of pain."
Just. Anyone reading this just gasped at the "just."
"To have him in our lineup tonight was a bonus," his Head Coach, Claude Julien, told reporters following the game, as he addressed them from the press conference podium (it hurt even more to every so often hear the cheers reverberating from the TD Garden ice, through the walls, and into the area where Coach and media were gathered).
"There was nothing that was going to stop this guy from getting in our lineup."
"That's why I can't speak enough about how proud I am of our players, because of things like that. And he wasn't going to be denied that opportunity, no matter what."
Bergeron came in, and powered through 17:45 of Game 6. He was limited on the faceoff dot, only taking 11 draws, but he made every second of ice-time count, and covered every inch of ice he could.
"I think even when he was getting dressed in the locker room before the game, you could feel the boys' spirits lifted," said his teammate, Tyler Seguin. "The year we won, he was doing the same thing - fighting through everything. Obviously guys have bumps and bruises, but he’s a guy that you obviously say is the heart and soul of our team. He wears that ‘B’ with a lot of pride."
He would have had the best excuse on the B's roster, but that was never going to be an option for Bergeron. No Bruin would have missed that chance to try and help the team. Even if Gregory Campbell, recovering broken leg and all, had been given a green light to play, he would thrown the crutches down the tunnel and skated on one leg.
Still, for Bergeron, though he had to be in immense physical pain, he was hurting more from the defeat.
"A tough goal late in the game like that. You don't want that to happen, especially with a minute left and time to, I guess, regroup and go back in to overtime and get it," he said, after noting how great the feeling was when Milan Lucic powered home the go-ahead that put them up 2-1 with 7:49 left to play in the third.
"But that second goal definitely hurt us a bit and maybe took away our focus at the wrong time. But right now, there’s not really many excuses to use."
The Bruins have been on the other side. They even experienced it in their miraculous comeback in Game 7 against Toronto, with the season on the line back in May. Bergeron scored the game-tying goal and overtime-winner then. If not for his effort then, the Bruins would not have reached this stage. But there was no room for any reflection yet, on Monday night, for how much they overcame this season, how much they put every part of their being into this run.
"It’s tough to, like I said, put words to describe how we’re feeling right now," said Bergeron. "You work so hard just to get to this point and give yourself a chance to get the Cup. And you feel like you’re right there, and you have a chance to force Game 7, and definitely it hurts. It doesn't work your way."
"Have to give credit to Chicago. They played a great series. But at the same time, it's the last thing you want to say."
"It hurts to see them hoisting the Cup."
According to Bergeron, his greatest pain may have come from knowing the Hawks were hoisting it on their home ice. That stung, yes, but let's just all take a moment to think about just how much pain he had to have been enduring that entire game.
He wasn't the only player on the ice battling through serious injuries, but, as he often does, the alternate captain quietly showed what it means to be a hockey player, a leader, a teammate, a Boston Bruin.
'Would you say it's a courageous effort?' a reporter asked Coach Julien during his press conference.
"Absolutely," said Coach, with absolutely no hesitation.
"Big-time courageous effort."