- Scott Burnside, NHL
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LAS VEGAS -- It was a couple of years ago that we had occasion to chat with Hall of Famer and Boston Bruins president Cam Neely. The conversation quickly turned to Patrice Bergeron and why the Bruins’ talented, hard-working center didn’t get any love when it came to the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the game’s top two-way forward.
Neely worried that Bergeron’s hard work playing against other teams’ top forward units night after night was being overlooked because perhaps his point totals weren’t as eye-popping as other nominees and winners.
Neely doesn’t need to worry now, as Bergeron earned his first Selke Trophy Wednesday night. And, if the trophy is about humility and hard work, voters couldn’t have picked a more deserving winner than the soft-spoken Bergeron, who nearly doubled the number of voting points collected by runner-up David Backes of St. Louis. Pavel Datsyuk of Detroit, a three-time Selke winner, was third.
“It does feel special, obviously," Bergeron said. "Playing both sides of the rink is something I take a lot of pride in. That’s the way I learned to play hockey. To actually win an award that’s given to the best defensive forward or two-way forward is something very special.”
With the trophy perched next to him, Bergeron took note of the some of the names with whom he now shares the honor of being a Selke winner.
“I’m just looking right here and it’s only one side of it [the trophy] and it’s Brind’Amour, Datsyuk, Lehtinen, all guys that I watched on TV and Fedorov. It’s very impressive and also very humbling, like I said. It’s an honor and I’m very happy,” Bergeron said.
The 26-year-old led the NHL with a plus-36 and helped the Bruins to the second-best defensive record in the Eastern Conference.
He led all Bruins in shorthanded time on the ice and was second in the league in faceoff efficiency behind Chicago’s Jonathan Toews.
Perhaps no one in the room at the Wynn Casino in Las Vegas was more happy for Bergeron than teammate and Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.
Although he finished third in voting for the Norris, you could hardly tell from Chara’s grin.
“Tonight’s about Patrice," Chara said. "I’m happy, I’m extremely happy for him and, honestly, I almost screamed when he won. He deserves it, he’s been such a great teammate and friend and I’m extremely happy for him.
“He means a lot [to the Bruins]. To have him on the team playing every role in every situation, crucial times of the games you can always count on him on and off the ice. Tremendous hockey player and person.”
So much has happened to Bergeron in the past couple of years: a berth on the Canadian Olympic team that won gold in Vancouver in 2010, a Stanley Cup win in 2011 and now the Selke; it’s easy to forget that Bergeron’s career was in jeopardy following a serious concussion suffered back in October 2007.
“I knew I was always confident that I could come back from my injury,” Bergeron said.
“Last year was the ultimate -- to win the Stanley Cup, it was a dream come true. Now to win the Selke is something I’m very proud of. Always believed that it’s nice to get recognized, and realizing that my game is back and maybe better than it was before and I want to just keep improving.”
14dScott Burnside and Craig Custance