BOSTON (AP) — Maybe he will run a marathon. He probably won’t be coaching. For now, Patrice Bergeron is content to be the “Uber driver for the family,” and that’s a pretty good feeling.
“It’s been an amazing ride, 20 years, but also hockey brings you a lot of pressure and stress,” he said on Wednesday at a TD Garden news conference a day after he announced his retirement. “So, it will be a nice change to just be able to be the Uber driver for the family for a little bit and just relax.”
A soon-to-be Hall of Famer who centered the first line on the best team in hockey during his final season, Bergeron announced on Tuesday that he would not return next season.
It wasn’t that his skills were slipping: He won his second straight Selke Trophy as the league’s top forward— and sixth overall — and led the Bruins to the most wins and most points in NHL history. But his desire to prepare for the games was.
“It was taking a lot longer now. I couldn’t just put the equipment on and jump on the ice,” he said.
“I wanted to play the game at the highest level that I could, and felt like I wanted to kind of leave on top of my game,” Bergeron told a gathering of reporters, with representatives from ownership and the front office also in attendance for the news conference in the aptly named Legends restaurant. “I just knew it was time.”
Bergeron scored 427 goals with 613 assists in 19 seasons with the Bruins, who selected him in the second round of the 2003 draft. He added 50 more goals and 78 points in the playoffs, leading the Bruins to the Stanley Cup Final three times, and scoring twice — one of them short-handed — in the Game 7 clincher against Vancouver. The French-speaking native of the Quebec City suburbs also won two Olympic gold medals with Canada.
Bruins president Cam Neely said the team hadn’t made any plans yet to honor their former captain, but retiring his No. 37 is “a no-brainer.” “We’ll figure out a time to do that,” Neely said.
The front office and coaching staff will also discuss the new captain. Brad Marchand is the longest-tenured member of the roster, and he has worn the alternate’s “A” since 2020, when Bergeron was elevated to the captaincy with the departure of Zdeno Chara. (Bergeron noted that Chara didn’t exactly let himself go, running the Boston Marathon last year.)
Neely said he and the rest of the Bruins management tried to talk Bergeron out of retiring, with no luck.
“The recurring theme was always that you’re going to know when it’s time. And it just felt like it was,” Bergeron said. “I’m a very intuitive guy. I feel like I always listen to my instincts and my heart, and it just felt like it was time for me to move on. Unfortunately, I wish I could play forever and never have to do this. But, as you know, eventually you have to move on. The body tells you something sometimes.”
Bergeron, 38, led the Bruins to the 2011 Stanley Cup championship and two other trips to the Final. He considered retirement last summer, but came back on a one-year deal and helped Boston win the Presidents Trophy with the NHL’s best record ever.
But after a first-round loss in the playoffs, though, he went through the thought process again.
“When the wound is fresh, you can’t make rational decisions. You have to really make sure you think about things or at least give yourself time to let it come to you, and I felt like that’s what I did,” Bergeron said. “There was a part of me that, yes, wanted to come back early on. … Once I took a step back and I realized everything that I was fortunate to experience and live as a hockey player and as a person, I felt very lucky and grateful.”
Bergeron didn’t spend much time reminiscing about his career highlights. But he was asked about one moment that proved to be formative: The concussion that ended his 2007-08 season after 10 games and left him appreciating the game even more.
“Things happen for a reason,” he said. “Of course, I’d like to change that moment, but at the same time I wouldn’t because it made me stronger and made me realize how thankful I am and grateful to be able to play. It took that away from me for quite some time, so for every time in harder days or dog days of winter when it’s dark, I always try to go and appreciate practice, or a workout, or obviously the games. So it’s taught me a lot.”
Bergeron’s retirement brought tributes from the Boston locker room and across the league.
“What you’ve built here is special,” Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy said in a video posted by the team. “I promise I’ll do everything I can to take care of it. I love you. I know we’ll be friends forever, and I want to wish you the best of luck in your next chapter with your beautiful family.”
Jimmy Golen, The Associated Press