In the world of hockey, actions speak just as loudly as words. Perhaps even more so in some instances, when “rah-rah” speeches in the dressing room can be overrated compared to moments when players simply do the right things on and off the ice.
Patrice Bergeron is becoming just as much the vocal leader as the lead-by-example type for the Bruins, something which is obvious by his measured comments directed toward Tyler Seguin during his season-ending meeting with the media on Tuesday.
“I think Tyler [Seguin] is a young guy still," Bergeron said. "He’s got a lot to learn, but at the same time he’s improved. When you’re learning like that, it’s going to happen. You need to make sure you learn from it though, and find a way to get better. That's the main thing with him. I think it’s just about finding ways to battle through it, and finding ways to build some character out of it. He’s a terrific player, terrific person. It’s just sometimes you need to have some lows to get back up and feel better and play better.
“I thought he was really good the way that he helped us. He found a way, even though he wasn’t scoring as much as he would have liked to. He was still battling hard and doing things – little details that you don't always see on the score sheet. But that goes a long way that wasn't going unnoticed from us as players and as teammates. He’s a terrific young player so he’s going to learn.”
The words were fair and accurate from Bergeron.
He was side-by-side with Seguin over the last couple of seasons until No. 19 was dropped to the third line during a disappointing playoff run.
But the actions on the ice are what really matter.
Bergeron's ability to play through torn rib cartilage, cracked ribs, a separated shoulder and a punctured lung in Game 6 showed the kind of commitment to winning that sets an organizational tone.
The Bruins alternate captain spent days in the hospital immediately after the playoff run was over, and will undoubtedly feel way less than 100 percent for his impending wedding and honeymoon taking place over the next couple of weeks.
But the 27-year-old Bergeron values his team, his teammates and his own personal obsession with winning as the all-important compass in his NHL career, set on that path learning by mentors like Martin Lapointe and Mark Recchi early in his career.
Combine his acts of toughness with Gregory Campbell, who finished out an entire PK shift on a broken leg to memorable effect, and the Bruins are in good hands from a leadership perspective.
Those kinds of acts of toughness send a message to the rest of the players on the Bruins that it’s what’s to be expected. Bergeron said as much when asked about the attention that’s been heaped on him for playing through injuries that left him hospitalized with a collapsed lung.
“I don't know if there’s pride. Some people would say it's stupid, but it just goes with the way it is. You don't think at that point. You’re just trying to help the team. You try to do whatever it takes,” said Bergeron. “You obviously don't want to put your health in danger. We had this conversation with the doctors. You never know what’s going to happen in a game, so there’s always a risk.
“But at the same time, it’s our passion. It’s what you want to do. You want to definitely win, that's the most important thing and at that stage, at that point. There’s no regrets on my part, I’ll tell you that. But I don't know if there’s necessarily pride. I just did whatever any other of my teammates would have done. Like you said, there are other guys that have done it. Soupy (Campbell) is one example, this year only and Rex (Recchi) was a perfect example as well. So that's it. I did whatever I could’ve done to help my team, and try to be there for our biggest game of the year.”
Anybody that was critical of Bergeron, or the Bruins for that matter, for playing in Game 6 given the severity of his health issues should heed those words in the middle of the alternate captain’s statement.
Bergeron has “no regrets” because he comes from the Old Time Hockey School where toughness is a virtue, rather than fodder for second-guessers who called his decision “stupid.”
Bergeron did just what he’s always done, and that’s set the hard-working, tough, courageous and unselfish tone for the rest of his teammates. He also set the bar for what’s expected from younger players like Seguin and Dougie Hamilton, who saw that type of Stanley Cup playoff resolve for the first time.
Someday those young players will be the backbone of the Black and Gold organization, and they’ll point to Bergeron as their inspiration when they play through injuries.
That’s what makes Bergeron’s actions and his words so damn important to everything that the Bruins have accomplished and hope to in the future.