WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Brian Rolston still remembers the 2003-04 season -- his last in his first stint as a Boston Bruin -- clearly. He recalls watching a quiet 18-year-old kid from Ancienne-Lorette, Quebec, make the Bruins roster out of training camp. He watched as Patrice Bergeron -- who hardly spoke a word of English -- acclimated himself to the NHL and to a new, English-speaking culture in Boston. Rolston would be Bergeron's center for the first half of that season and saw a rookie mature before his eyes.
"You know what, it was really how calm he was at 18 and 19 years old," Rolston said after practice Friday when asked what he remembered most about Bergeron as a rookie. "He was our best player in the playoffs and it says a lot for a player in his first year and don't forget it was against Montreal. That kind of quiet confidence and poise is just something very special and he's shown how valuable it can be."
That approach to the game has helped Bergeron develop into a leader and one of the best two-way forward in the NHL. At the young age of 26, he already has a Stanley Cup ring and is having one of his best seasons with 53 points in 62 games this season.
"He's a guy that most organizations, if they were to pick a guy to start their team around, it would be a guy like him," Rolston said. "He does everything right. He's good offensively and good defensively. He doesn't cheat offensively or defensively. That's the type of guy you want leading your team and he has become a leader for sure."
After being traded to the Bruins at the trade deadline on Monday, Rolston, 39, found himself on a line with Bergeron once again. He couldn't have been more excited to be reunited with his former teammate.
"It was very exciting to play with him [Thursday] and I thought we had a good game," Rolston said. "The chemistry was pretty good for the first game."
Rolston has always kept tabs on Bergeron, and was elated to see Bergeron help lead the Bruins to the Stanley Cup last season.
"You can't help but cheer for him because he is not a boisterous guy and he's very to himself," Rolston said. "He goes about his business and is a true pro. Just a great guy and that's why you cheer for him. He was awesome and he led this team. You can see the respect he gets here and the leader he has become. He was a major reason they won the Cup."
Bergeron is equally thrilled to have his former teammate and one of his mentors from his rookie season back as well.
"It's great and it's pretty funny eight years later to have him back," Bergeron said. "A lot has changed but he's still that great guy he was then. He helped me a lot when I first came in the league. Him, Marty [Lapointe] and Joe [Thornton]. But he was my center probably my first 40-50 games in the NHL. He helped me a lot and always gave me great advice on things to do on and off the ice. But he's been awesome again now and it's really funny having him on my wing after eight years. But it's great because he is such a smart and great player."
In 2004 the Bruins were a team poised to go deep in the Stanley Cup playoffs. They were loaded up front and then made two key trades at the deadline, acquiring defenseman Sergei Gonchar and forward Michael Nylander. But the Montreal Canadiens -- as they have so many times -- crushed the Bruins' Stanley Cup aspirations, coming back from a 3-1 series deficit in the first round to send the top-seeded Bruins home for the summer earlier than most people expected. Both Rolston and Bergeron remember that season well.
"I think before last season, [2003-04 was] probably the best I played with," Bergeron said. "It was so unfortunate we couldn't get it done against Montreal because we had a really great team and really skilled and deep team. I thought we'd go deep in the playoffs after making those trades at the deadline to get Gonchar and Nylander, but it didn't happen."
Rolston won the Stanley Cup as a rookie with the 1995 New Jersey Devils, and that 2004 loss to the Habs was just another lesson of how hard it is to actually get a shot to play for the Cup. But he is thrilled to be in Boston as his career winds down because he truly believes this Bruins squad has a chance to repeat. If he could win the Stanley Cup with Bergeron, it would almost be redemption for what happened in 2004.
"This is truly a team here and you know that when you get to be in the league this long," Rolston said. "I felt it right away this week when I got here and it's great. You can see how they win by a team and Bergy is a big part of that.
"We had a great team and we thought we'd go far. Then teams break up after that. And it makes you realize that you don't get the chance to do it that often, and to win with Bergy and this team would be fantastic."