When hockey stopped, the Boston Bruins were the best team in the NHL. Whenever hockey gets rolling again, the Bruins will likely remain as one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. Boston has been in a fantastic position for years thanks to a solid dressing room to go along with the requisite talent needed to go far. The Bruins played for the championship last year before falling to St. Louis, while also going to the final in 2013 and winning the title in 2011.
Amazingly, much of Boston's current core was on that Cup-winning team, including netminder Tuukka Rask, star defenseman Zdeno Chara, pesky and talented Brad Marchand and two-way ace Patrice Bergeron. As alternate captain, Bergeron has an important leadership role on the team, so I asked him what his message will be to the rest of the squad once the Bruins get the green light to reunite in a hockey setting.
"The message is to be grateful," Bergeron said. "We're lucky enough that we're talking about it, in salvaging the season and playing again. It's our passion, it's what we love to do. It's been taken away from us for awhile, obviously for really important reasons, so it's about being grateful for the opportunity again."
While Bergeron has been an exceptional player his entire career, he took the path many players do when it comes to leadership: one that comes gradually until it was time to step up. One of Boston's veteran acquisitions in the years leading up to the Cup run played a valuable role in that respect.
"Mark Recchi came along in 2009 and that was a turning point for me in terms of taking the next step as a leader," Bergeron said. "His advice was to speak from the heart, be yourself and people will follow. Don't force anything. I thought that was amazing. He also said 'they need to hear you, they need to hear your voice.' That always resonated: leaders lead by example, but at times you need to find the words to reassure your group or help individuals feel better about themselves. It really spoke to me in terms of reaching out to others."
When the NHL's 24-team tournament becomes reality, the whole of the league will be thrown out of its collective comfort zone - of that, there is no doubt. But there is still a Cup to be hoisted and the Bruins appear to be in as great a position as anyone. The B's are one of four teams to earn a bye past the qualifying round, instead playing a round-robin against other elite Eastern units from Tampa Bay, Washington and Philadelphia. Though it remains to be seen what the "winner" of the round-robin will get, if anything, the opportunity to get back on track against top competition without the fear of elimination may be a nice little advantage for those squads that earned it through the shortened regular season schedule.
At 34 years old, Bergeron remains one of the top players in the game thanks to his all-around acumen. Even without finishing the schedule, he recorded his third-straight 30-goal campaign in 2019-20 and he's still an annual favorite to win the Selke Trophy as the league's best defensive forward.
For a guy who has won every team accolade you could want (he's a member of the Triple Gold Club thanks to his Cup win, Olympic titles and world juniors win), Bergeron is basically just padding his Hall of Fame resume at this point. But adding another Cup ring or two never hurt anyone and he's got a very real shot at that in the coming years. And when he feels the need to speak up, he knows his teammates will be listening.