October 5, 2011
Bergeron helps Crosby through concussion woesBruins forward living proof players can bounce back
By CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency
BOSTON - In a league that is up to Zdeno Chara's eyebrows in question marks, at the top of the list for the NHL is: How will Sidney Crosby perform when he inevitably returns from a concussion?
The NHL's marquee player was having the season of the post-salary-cap era when he took successive blows to the head in January and was lost for the rest of 2010-2011.
Will we -- can we -- get that Sidney Crosby back?
"I know he will be back as good if not better than he was," Boston Bruins centre Patrice Bergeron said Wednesday of his former Team Canada mate.
Bergeron has more insight than perhaps anyone into what Crosby is going through because he has been through it himself and remains a Crosby confidant and friend.
"I'm rooting for him to be healthy, 100%, as a person first, before the hockey player," Bergeron said. "He's a great person. A great guy. We need him as a player, obviously, he's the face of the league. I want him to be back 100% health-wise and then think about hockey."
Bergeron's confidence in Crosby's future is encouraging if for no other reason than he has been where Crosby has been and has come back to stand before us as a Stanley Cup champion -- the best player in Game 7 of the final last June, and getting two goals. He had 20 points in the Bruins' 23-game playoff run and was plus-15.
Bergeron has kept in touch with his friend and former teammate (linemates at the 2005 world junior; teammates with Team Canada at the 2010 Olympics) through text message since Crosby was diagnosed with a concussion the first week of January. The Pittsburgh Penguins captain had taken hits from then-Washington Capital David Steckel and Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning in successive games.
"We talked through text (instead of telephone)," Bergeron said. I know back then (after getting concussed himself) I didn't want to talk. I was just going with experience. You don't want to bother him, you just want to make sure he knows your support is there. He was open to it."
"Back then" was four years ago when Bergeron was going through what Crosby is almost through now. Bergeron missed the last 72 games of the 2007-08 season and the playoffs after being run into the boards from behind by then-Philadelphia Flyer Randy Jones.
Bergeron is proof that careers -- and more importantly, lives -- can be resurrected.
He has been giving advice and encouragement in his texts.
"A little of both," Bergeron said, "but never telling him what to do, more what I've been through and what helped me and what didn't. It was mostly encouragement in telling him I was happy to see he was making progress when I heard it on TV. Stay positive and I know it's not always easy and I know it sounds cliche, you hear that a lot, but that's how it is. Stay positive and stay patient."
Bergeron knows about patience. Some of his most difficult days were those where he couldn't stop his injured brain from going to unpleasant places.
"To me it was just taking it a day at a time. As soon as I looked too far ahead, panic started creeping up. You look at the schedule and you see your year goin down and down and down," he said.
Bergeron said he never thought about possibly not coming back.
"It was hard at times. I got frustrated a lot, but that being said, I always believed. It's one of the reasons I was able to come back. I also approached it as everything happens for a reason. I had to go through it and it made me a stronger person and a better player."
Hopefully, in the near future, Crosby can say the same.