Recovering Bergeron Recounts Season-Ending Pain
BOSTON, MA - Patrice Bergeron missed his team's break-up day last week (June 26) because he was still in the hospital recovering from a laundry list of injuries. So, on Tuesday morning at TD Garden, with a week to reflect on how the season had transpired, Bergeron addressed media for his year-end availability.
For Bergeron, the season ended - first and foremost - in pain, and the greatest of ailments did not come from his injuries.
"It hurts to see them hoisting the Cup," Bergeron had said following the Game 6 loss to Chicago.
The center had played through the game with a broken rib and torn cartilage on his left side, along with a separated right shoulder sustained in the opening period. It was learned after the game that he also had a puncture in his lung.
"I’m feeling a lot better," Bergeron said on Tuesday, as he met with media inside the Bruins' locker room.
"The ribs and the shoulder now just needs to get some time to rest but it’s a lot better."
Bergeron's injuries will not require surgery; just rest and time to heal. He is receiving treatments for the separated shoulder, but for the rib and cartilage, only time and rest will provide the healing necessary.
Breaking a rib isn't like breaking a leg or an arm, where it's an external break that can be put back into place before the healing process; the rib has to heal entirely on its own.
"I’m guessing three weeks, or hopefully less. Could be more, could be less, we don’t know," said Bergeron of the recovery time. He will ease into it, since he'll obviously be limited with his core training (due to the ribs/cartilage) to start. "And after that, just try to get back on my feet and try to get ready for the start of the year and be 100 percent for training camp."
The center said he's "pretty positive" he'll be fine for the beginning of camp.
He also made sure to note that he doesn't necessarily take "pride" in playing through the injuries.
"I wasn’t the only one that was going through pain and some bruises and all that," said Bergeron. "Even Chicago I’m sure was the same - at that point after two months of games like we’ve played."
"I don't know if there’s pride. Some people would say its stupid," he said and smiled, drawing laughter from the gathered reporters.
"But it just goes with the way it is. You don't think at that point. You’re just trying to help the team. You try to do whatever it takes. You obviously don't want to put your health in danger."
"We had this conversation with the doctors - you never know what’s going to happen in a game so there’s always a risk but at the same time, it’s our passion. It’s what you want to do. You want to definitely win, that's the most important thing and at that stage, at that point. There’s no regrets on my part, I’ll tell you that."
"But I don't know if there’s necessarily pride. I just did whatever any other of my teammates would have done. There’s other guys that have done it. Soupy [Gregory Campbell] is one example, this year, and Rex [Mark Recchi in 2011] was a perfect example as well. So that's it. I did whatever I could’ve done to help my team and try to be there for our biggest game of the year."
No matter how much pain the center was in, he was certain that anyone in that dressing would have done the same.
"I was definitely in a lot of pain - trying to hit or trying to get hit, that was probably the worst, getting hit. But I know for a fact that all my teammates would have done the same thing, especially at that stage, and at that point of the year," Bergeron recounted. "You just want to win and you want to do whatever it takes."
His teammates may have done it, but they were certainly still lauding one of their leader's efforts in the days following Game 6. Bergeron appreciated it.
"It means a lot," he said, of his teammates, who found out during their exit meetings and media availability on break-up day that Bergeron was still in the hospital. Soon after that realization, they went to go visit him.
"It was nice to see them," he smiled, "and to be able to talk a little bit."
"You put everything on the line to help your team. That's basically what I did," he reiterated. "I’m 100 percent confident everyone else would have done the same thing, so I don't think I should – there’s a lot of really tough guys on our team and I don't feel like I should take all the praise. Because I’m not the only one that would have done that."
We don't need to necessarily relive the end to the season up to the closing seconds in Game 6 - and clearly, Bergeron doesn't want to be glorified for the injuries he played through - but, for the sake of accuracy, it's worth piecing together the second half of his Stanley Cup Final experience, from the center's perspective.
(Note: if anyone reading this in the medical profession has a notable correction, please write a note in the comments section below!)
The aforementioned injuries are the most Bergeron said he has physically ever played through.
The whole sequence started in Game 4 against Chicago, when he recalled that it was possibly Michal Frolik he was battling in the corner when the rib cartilage on his left side was torn.
It escalated so that in Game 5, in his first or second shift of the game, he was hit again in the ribs. When you saw the replay of him laboring on the ice, that's the moment when he was "sure it cracked and got worse."
"I tried to go back in the second and after the second period the doctors — because the pain kept escalating — they were worried about this pain so we had to go to the hospital and get it checked but everything was fine," Bergeron recounted of that night in Chicago, when he left the game to go to the hospital.
"I got back home and got ready for Game 6. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to play but I went to see some doctors and was able to have some great help."
"In my mind, for sure I wanted to play," he said of his mindset heading into the Bruins' elimination game. After he and the Bruins' medical staff spoke with specialists, the next step was to have the nerve block procedure, which, via a shot injection, places anesthetic on or near nerves for temporary control of pain.
Bergeron had this prior to warm-ups, getting the nerve block in the area that covers six to eight of his ribs.
"Otherwise, the pain would be too high and so I did that in order to play," he said.
From there, it got worse for him. In the first period of Game 6, he was trying to battle in the corner and protect his ribs at the same time. When he went awkwardly into the boards, it opened up his shoulder and separated it.
"I was trying to just play my game and not worry about it, but the pain was still there," he said of the pain that grew and caused him to have another shot injection that would help ease the pain around his rib.
"I guess I found a way. But it wasn’t enough to get the win."
The loss was painful enough. But afterwards, Bergeron met with media in the Bruins' locker room, as he normally would after a game, and he felt he was having trouble breathing. He recounted that he had a "sensation that my rib cage was creeping in on my lungs," but he didn't know what the specific issue was at the time.
X-Rays prior to the game had showed that his lungs were fine, but he felt his energy go down during the game after the second period.
"I felt like my chest was closing in on me so the doctors didn’t want to take any chances. There’s an X-ray machine here, but they couldn’t tell really," said Bergeron, recounting the way he felt following Game 6, and the reason he was taken to the hospital for observation. It wasn't urgent, as he had taken time to speak with media, but the doctors felt the trip was necessary.
"They wanted to make sure, and luckily enough, they made the right decision because I went there right away and they found out that my lung had collapsed."
Upon immediately discovering the puncture in his lung at the hospital, a specialist performed a procedure.
To the best of Bergeron's recollection, "They put a hole in through my rib cage and put a tube in there. I think it was in the lung area in between the rib cage and the lung. It’s air, I guess, that takes the space of the lung. That’s why the lung kind of shrinks. The tube is put in place to suck the air out so there’s a machine that sucks the air out of it to make sure that the lung expands and takes its place where it should be. They need to leave that there for a couple days and make sure it’s not going to shrink back. That’s why I stayed for three days at the hospital."
After Bergeron was released, Bruins' President Cam Neely happened to be speaking with the media on the Friday of that week. He informed reporters that the center would make a full recovery.
That physical recovery will take time, yes, but Bergeron already has his sights set on next season.
"It hurts going all the way and not being able to finish it," he said.
"It makes you want it even more and relive the memories of 2011. So we are going to have a lot of desire to get back on track."