Charles Pierce has an addition to the literature on athletes and concussions with an article on one of my favorite active players, Patrice Bergeron.
I always enjoyed Pierce’s columns for the Boston Herald and his work for the Globe and would seek him out — he’s a fellow Worcesterite*, Saint John’s Pioneer.
After all Patrice has done (we’re buddies, I can call him Patrice), you almost forget, or I did, anyway, that he had that horrific concussion so early on in his career. The guy is nearly synonymous with pain, his legend growing after that heart breaking Stanley Cup Final against the Blackhawks. “Patrice was playing with a punctured lung!” “Patrice’s heart had technically stopped in the middle of the third period.” “Bergeron played half the game with only his liver and stomach in reasonable working condition.”
But I remember when he had to take time off for that Randy Jones hit. I was in the middle of writing Butterfly, a novel, and the protagonist was already a hockey player, a far less accomplished player than Patrice Bergeron, even at that stage of his career. It was an awful, awful thing to watch a player out on the ice, just laid out and unmoving, for as long as he was. And his press conference. It’s rare to see the vulnerable side of a hockey player, but there it was, on full view for all to see. I was already interested in the effect that retiring had on these elite athletes, yes, even the ones who never quite make it to The Show, whatever their given show is. But I think that moment, watching Bergeron out cold next to those boards, before Marc Savard’s injury at the shoulder of Matt Cooke, before Derek Boogaard’s death, I think that helped get me thinking even more about what it was these guys were leaving on the ice. For us, for themselves.
I have a huge amount of respect for Patrice Bergeron and how he plays the game, and it’s nice to see Charles Pierce take a moment, too. It’s a short and sweet little piece, not asking for action, just honoring a player, his work ethic, and showing you the “behind the scenes” costs that player may have paid already.
* I have an urge to scream “Woos-taaaah!” and shake my fists, possibly in defiance? At the sky. Don’t mind me.