I have a few thoughts after watching a lot of Olympic hockey over the last week or so.
Canada is a hockey machine and cares much, much more about winning a gold medal than “we” do.
And Patrice Bergeron might be the most complete hockey player in the world. Yes, world!
If there ever has been a perfect Boston Bruin — combining worth ethic, effort and desire (maybe they all mean the same thing) — Bergeron is it.
He doesn’t cause any trouble on or off the ice. He wins battles in the corner. He might be one of the best passers of the puck, to players in scoring positions, than anybody in the world.
The stats, of course, never do Bergeron justice. The final tally in Sochi as a right winger on Canada was two measly assists. But didn’t it seem like he did so much more?
Every time this guy is on the ice, something good happens.
It isn’t often that guys like Bergeron are rewarded for not being on the first or second All-NHL team. But his eight-year, $52 million contract kicks in next year, which will put him at just about $100 million if he retires then, at age 36.
Since the start of the 2010-11 season, Bergeron is the only player over a plus-100 (he’s 105), which means he is on the ice for 105 more goals than his team has allowed with both teams at even strength. Sidney Crosby is a respectable plus-73. The other Team Canada star, Jonathan Toews, is at a plus-81.
The irony is that Crosby, arguably the most talented offensive player in the world, was having trouble finding linemates early in Sochi. That changed when Bergeron, a natural center, was put on Crosby’s right wing. Crosby’s offense improved exponentially and he finally scored his only goal in the Gold Medal game on a breakaway.
Bergeron was also Canada’s ace penalty killer, which is nothing we haven’t seen around here before.
While books will be written about the USA’s sudden disappointment in the final two games after looking so sharp the previous four games, there might be an easier explanation for what ailed them and what made Canada the best ... Patrice Bergeron.
It was hard to root against Bergeron for one game, particularly when he single-handedly created two great scoring chances against Team USA, similar to the way he does regularly against the Canadiens, Penguins and Lightning.
Bergeron reminds me a lot of Ray Bourque, another quiet leader who almost always made the right decision on and off the ice. Like Bourque, Bergeron grew up in the Montreal area rooting for the Canadiens.
But before he was done, it was obvious he was a Bostonian, a New Englander and basically, one of us. We can all say the same thing about Bergeron.
He deserved the gold medal as much as anyone.
You can email Bill Burt at email@example.com.