BostonBruins.com - Patrice Bergeron has been a Boston Bruins for 10 years. Do you believe it? A decade in the Black & Gold.
Now, the 27-year-old leader will be wearing the spoked-B for at least nine more years.
Fresh off Tuukka Rask's new eight-year deal that was announced by General Manager Peter Chiarelli on Thursday, the Bruins signed Bergeron to an eight-year extension on Friday that will keep him a Bruin at least until the 2021-22 season.
The centerman still has a year left on his current three-year deal that was signed during the 2011 preseason, before the run to the Stanley Cup. The new contract will kick in for the 2014-15 season.
An eight-year deal is the longest length a contract can be in the NHL.
Prior to the extension, during his final interview with media before the offseason, Bergeron had spoken of the meaning that a long-term extension would hold for him.
"That's the goal since the beginning," he had said, on playing out the rest of his NHL career as a member of the Bruins. "It's a team that believed in me when I was 18 and when I was coming up and now. It’s my home."
On Friday morning, that goal became a reality.
"I’m really happy now to see that I will hopefully retire a Bruin. That’s the goal and that’s what I want," said Bergeron, on a conference call with media. He had started the interview by thanking the entire organization. He's very proud to wear the spoked-B - and for the opportunity to don it long into the future.
"I’d like to thank my teammates for helping me on and off the ice become a better person and a better player. I’ll be proud obviously to be a Bruin hopefully for life. I really have a lot of pride every time I step on the ice as a Bruin and I couldn’t be happier."
Long-term contract extensions aren't easy for a general manager to hand out. In Bergeron's case, Chiarelli knows there is much merit to inking the epitome of a Boston Bruin for such a time period.
"He embodies a lot of what the Bruins stand for. He’s a responsible player. He’s a hard player. He’s a leader. He’s a clutch player. He’s just done a classic way of carrying himself that I like to be part of and the Bruins like to be part of," said the Bruins' GM.
"We’ve seen his performance over the years. We saw a gutty performance this year in the playoffs. We’re really happy that we can get Patrice signed to a long -term extension."
Bergeron's annual cap figure when the deal begins in 2014-15 will be $6.5 million per year.
"It wasn’t any question that he’d be able to get more on the open market here," said Chiarelli. Bergeron would have been an unrestricted free agent after the 2013-14 season.
"Patrice really helped us in the team-building aspect too and I give a lot of credit to him because he’s seen what we’re trying to do here. It’s something that helps us in future years. I’m very happy on behalf of the Bruins organization."
"He’s a leader. He stands for what we stand for. He’s proud to wear a Bruins logo. He sets a great example."
The Bruins' organization, fans and media alike all give due credit to Bergeron for his work ethic and gentlemanly demeanor, but the alternate captain likes to give his credit to the club.
He likes the Bruins' attitude, their "team-mentality." It's largely why he's wanted to remain in the Black & Gold since the beginning of his career.
"It’s the mentality in the organization - it’s team first and to me, it means a lot. That’s the only way you can win and, to me, it exemplifies exactly the values that I have."
Bergeron has felt the Bruins have believed in him since day one, when they selected him 45th overall in the 2003 NHL Draft.
And it hasn't been easy. He's had his share of challenges, notably more than most in the NHL, with his concussion history and even what he played through in the Stanley Cup Final.
"I think when you realize and when you see that the team wants you and they believe in you. They give you a chance to actually show what you can do no matter where you got picked," said Bergeron of the belief the Bruins have in him, and the constant motivation he has as a result.
When he signed his extension in 2011, it was also before he hit the open market. There's a very simple - and not surprising - answer for that.
"That’s why I signed it before going on the market because I wanted to stay in Boston. Now same thing here, I want to retire as a Bruin."
Of Bergeron's countless achievements over the years - whether on the NHL or international stage - the one that drives him the most, of course, is the Stanley Cup.
Winning another Cup for Boston is one of the strongest motivations for remaining a Bruin "for life," as he says.
"You want to stay here. You want to keep doing it, keep reliving the moment, the way that we felt in 2011 after winning the Cup. Those are the memories that you never forget," said Bergeron.
"This year we were two wins away, and it was unfortunate. But at the same time we have a very competitive team every year. Guys that want to win and you can tell. I’m just happy to be apart of that."
"Everything about it, everything about the Bruins made me want to stay in Boston, the city, the people, and definitely my teammates."
With Bergeron locked up until 2021-22, and teammates like Tuukka Rask in it for the long haul, having the core stay together plays a key role in him never wanting to leave.
"It’s one of the primary reasons I wanted to stay for such a long time, because of all the core guys and all of my teammates," he said.
"They’re a huge reason why I wanted to be in Boston for a while and we have a great team, a competitive team every year. We all want to win and you can see the desire in every player."
"I love the city and the people and the organization and my teammates, so it was a very easy decision and I’m very happy and proud to say that I will be a Bruin for a long time."
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