Bergeron makes case for respect

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

As a horrified capacity crowd watched Mellon Arena workers carefully strap Marc Savard to a stretcher Sunday, Patrice Bergeron felt sick to his stomach.

It was almost deja vu, all over again.

Some 29 months earlier, Bergeron himself had been carried off the ice on a backboard, his marbles, like those of Savard, having been dangerously scrambled.

Now, seeing his Boston Bruins teammate motionless, the normally reserved young forward no longer could contain his anger.

Bergeron began yelling at Pittsburgh Penguins superpest Matt Cooke. About his apparent blindside hit. About his recklessness in splattering Savard on the ice. And, most importantly, about Cooke's lack of respect for his fellow player.

"It's got to stop somewhere," Bergeron said Tuesday, having learned Savard might be out for the remainder of the season with a concussion. "When a guy is in a vulnerable position like that, you just can't hit him.

"I just told (Cooke) that it was a bad hit. I hope he realized that after watching the video. It's obvious that it was a hit straight to his head.

"It's about being responsible. It's about being respectful. After all, how would you like to be in Marc's position?"

Patrice Bergeron has been in that position. And it almost ruined his life, not to mention his career.

That's why he continuously uses words like "responsible" and "respect" in any debate about head shots. They are qualiities, he feels, that too often are lacking among players in the faster, rougher modern-day NHL game.

While Bergeron carefully is documenting his fears on the subject Tuesday, an advisory committee of eight general managers at the GMs meetings in Florida has come up with a potential rule to punish blindside head shots. The group is expected to forward its recommendation to the other GMs on Wednesday.

For Bergeron, that's all well and good. He's all for the league taking action. But, in his mind, it is the players who must be more conscious in solving the problem by being "responsible" and using more "respect."

Little of those two virtues was shown in the incidents that injured both Bergeron and Savard. And, in each instance, a head shot was to blame.

In Savard's case, he was hit by Cooke. Bergeron's woes, meanwhile, came from being nailed from behind by Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Randy Jones, a blow that sent his noggin crashing into the unforgiving TD Garden glass and boards on Oct. 27, 2007.

In the subsequent weeks, a concussed Bergeron wondered if he would ever have a normal life again, Speaking was difficult. So was watching television.

"Just being in a room with more than five people was too much," he said. "I couldn't handle it."

Bergeron was fortunate. After a lengthy and gruelling rehab process, he remarkably has been able to resume his NHL career. The icing on the cake: Being included on the Team Canada roster for the Vancouver Olympics.

So what if he didn't play that much? Just a couple of years earlier, he wondered if he could ever play at all.

Yet, less than two weeks later, Sidney Crosby's gold-medal goal seems like a lifetime ago. Now, the focus is on Savard. And in the 48 hours since his teammate was carted away, Bergeron has sent him several e-mails: Anything you need or anything you want to ask, please do.

"I know the game is faster now I know the players are bigger now. You don't want to take the physical side out of the game," Bergeron said.

"At the same time, the players need to be more responsible, more respectful."

Patrice Bergeron has spoken. Hopefully, his peers are listening.

MIKE.ZEISBERGER@SUNMEDIA.CA


Videos

Photos