BOSTON -- During the NHL lockout that delayed the start of the 2012-13 season, the Boston Bruins had time to renovate their locker room at TD Garden. It received the usual type of boring upgrades, including a fresh paint job, new carpet, new doors and better amenities for the players.
The one interesting aspect was the addition of action photos of every former Bruins player inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
There are a total of 48 players on the wall, including Bobby Orr, Milt Schmidt, Cam Neely, Ray Bourque, Dit Clapper, Eddie Shore, Brad Park, Adam Oates and even Paul Coffey, who finished his Hall of Fame career in Boston and played only 18 games with the Bruins during the 2000-01 season.
At some point -- perhaps when the current collective bargaining agreement expires and there's potentially another lockout in 10 years -- the Bruins should have time to reconfigure those photos. They'll need to find space for at least one more Bruins player: Patrice Bergeron.
In another 10 years, Bergeron will be only 37 years old and could still be playing in the NHL. It's incredible to think he's been in the league 10 years already. It's a testament to his desire, passion, work ethic, love for this game and this team. He has already accomplished so much, both on and off the ice.
There's nothing flashy about Bergeron. His relentless style of two-way hockey has helped the Bruins become perennial winners. He helped the Bruins return the Stanley Cup to Boston in 2011 for the first time in 39 years. He is the reigning Selke trophy winner as the league's best defensive forward and was named a finalist Wednesday for this season's honor, too.
But if there were ever a more fitting time for Bergeron to cement his legacy in this organization, it arrived in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night at the Garden.
The Bruins became the first team in NHL history to erase a three-goal deficit in the third period of a Game 7. Bergeron scored the game-tying goal in regulation, then added the winner in overtime.
Bergeron has become Mr. Clutch for the Bruins.
"We hadn't seen a performance like [Monday] night in a long, long time, if ever, just clutch performance what he did," said Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli. "Game in and game out, he does the little things. Watching him carry the puck [Monday], he had a little extra drive. You could just see it in him.
"You can see the fire in his eye. You can see it on the bench. You can see the plays he was making. He was always in on the forecheck, he seemed to be the first guy in for most of the time in the last two minutes, so he was special [Monday] night and he's just a reliable, terrific player. He's got oodles of talent and the two-way play. He's a special player."
Bergeron is also a humble player.
He plays in and focuses on the moment, but leaving a lasting legacy for this team and this city is what motivates him.
"It's important," he said. "It's takes a lot of pride to be a Bruin. With all the history behind wearing that jersey is something very special, and I take pride in it every night I step on the ice. It's something you appreciate every time you're in this dressing room or if you're representing the team. It's always special to be part of it."
Since he began his NHL career as an 18-year-old with limited English-speaking skills in 2003, it's tough to find another player on any team who has played this game as consistently as Bergeron has every single shift, every single game.
When the Bruins have needed his talent to shine the most, he has always come through. Probably his biggest game was Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals against the Vancouver Canucks on June 15, 2011, at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. The Bruins' assistant captain scored two goals and finished at plus-4 in the team's 4-0 win over the Canucks.
"It's always something you thrive on is to show up in big moments," Bergeron said after Wednesday's practice. "Everyone wants to win, so when you're winning, that's all that matters at the end of the day. All these games, these moments is what you remember for the rest of your life, so that's when you need to make sure you come out on top."
Even though it's early in his career to think about it, at some point, his plaque deserves to hang in the Hockey Hall of Fame. He wants to play his entire career for the Bruins, and the organization should make sure he's the one player of his generation to do so. His No. 37 should be hanging from the Garden rafters when his career is over.
"I'm not thinking about that; that's the last thing I'm thinking about," Bergeron said. "To be honest with you, to finish my career here would be great."
Bergeron is thinking about the team's next opponent, the New York Rangers. The legacy he wants to create is a winning one.
"Winning is the best legacy you can leave to a team and to a city," Bergeron said. "That's what we're working on every time we step on the ice. All you need to worry about is winning, and right now it's about the New York Rangers and nothing else. You don't want to look too far ahead."
He's uncomfortable when he's asked to talk about himself and his career. Bergeron would rather talk about his teammates and the team concept.
"It's the last thing I want to talk about," he said. "It's weird. Just that question about the future is something I don't think about. About winning, that's the only thing you have to worry about when you're on the ice, so it's weird. Bottom line: I want to talk about the Bruins and not myself."
Like a select few before him, Bergeron has become a true Bruin.