Patrice Bergeron, who led the Boston Bruins to the 2011 championship and two other trips to the Stanley Cup Final over two decades in which he established himself as the NHL’s dominant two-way forward and one of the most respected players in the game, announced Tuesday “with a full heart and a lot of gratitude” that he was retiring.
“I have given the game everything that I have physically and emotionally, and the game has given me back more than I could have ever imagined,” the Bruins captain said in a statement posted on social media. “As I step away today, I have no regrets. I have only gratitude that I lived my dream, and excitement for what is next for my family and I. I left everything out there and I’m humbled and honored it was representing this incredible city and for the Boston Bruins fans.”
The Bruins are expected to retire Bergeron’s No. 37, making him the 12th player so honored. He is a certain first-ballot inductee for the Hockey Hall of Fame when he is eligible in three years.
“Patrice is a perfect example of what Boston Bruins hockey is all about,” said team president Cam Neely, himself a Hall of Fame player whose number has been retired by the Original Six franchise. “He has been an amazing teammate and extraordinary leader, helping establish a culture of work ethic, respect and selflessness.”
Bergeron, who turned 38 on Monday, considered retirement last summer only to return for another season. With him as the captain and the first-line center, the Bruins set NHL records with 65 wins and 135 points, and Bergeron won an unprecedented sixth Selke Trophy as the NHL’s top defensive forward.
Bergeron wrote Tuesday that he knows “how blessed and lucky I feel to have had the career that I have had, and that I have the opportunity to leave the game I love on my terms.”
“It wasn’t a decision that I came to lightly,” he said. “But after listening to my body, and talking with my family, I know in my heart that this is the right time to step away from playing the game I love.”
In all, 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 shorthanded — in the Game 7 clincher against Vancouver. The French-speaking native of the Quebec City suburbs also won two Olympic gold medals with Canada.
He is third all-time for the 100-year-old franchise in goals, points (1,040) and games played (1,294), and fourth in assists behind only Hall of Famers Ray Bourque, Johnny Bucyk and Bobby Orr. With Bergeron’s retirement, Brad Marchand becomes the only remaining member of the 2011 championship team, though Milan Lucic re-signed with the team this summer after eight seasons away.
To his teammates, Bergeron wrote: “I have tried to learn something from each and every one of you and I always tried to be the best teammate that I could be. I will never forget your trust, the laughs, the endless memories, the ups and downs, and ultimately the long lasting friendships. I will forever be grateful being a part of such an exceptional group of men, and I will carry the pride of winning in 2011 with me forever.”
He also thanked the Bruins management and staff, the Boston fans and media, and his teammates and family and ended with a message to the next generation of hockey players.
“I had a dream at 12 years old, and through hard work and perseverance my dreams came true more than I ever could have imagined,” he wrote. “Respect the game and your peers. Welcome adversity and simply enjoy yourself. No matter where you go from there the game will bring you so much happiness.”
Kent Hughes, a longtime agent of Bergeron who is now general manager of the Montreal Canadiens, said in a statement his client unknowingly taught him a lot along the way.
“I am proud and thankful to have been a small part of your journey,” Hughes said. “You arrived in Boston as an 18-year-old speaking broken English, and you leave the game today a man, husband, father and one of the greatest leaders the National Hockey League has ever known.”