The No. 37.
It means a lot in Boston. On any given night, you won’t have to stray too far to see it draped on the backs of men, women and children around the city. You’ll see it on television and billboards. You’ll hear it on radio and in your local neighborhood barber shops. And one day you’ll see it hanging in the TD Garden rafters.
The number belongs to Patrice Bergeron. And he’s approaching yet another milestone.
Bergeron will become the sixth player in Bruins history to skate in 1,000 career NHL games — joining Ray Bourque, Johnny “Chief” Bucyk, Wayne Cashman, captain Zdeno Chara and current GM Don Sweeney — when Boston hosts the New York Islanders Tuesday night.
“Playing 1,000 games for the same organization is something that I am very proud of,” Bergeron said following Monday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena. “The friendships and memories I’ve gathered over the years is the biggest thing. It’s been a fun ride so far and special along the way for sure.”
Bergeron first joined the Bruins back in 2003 as a second-round draft pick. He stepped foot in the city of Boston with a plethora of promise, mixed with a shred of uncertainty.
It’s never easy for any 18-year-old to step into one of the biggest sports markets in the country and play a vital role right away. The four-time Selke winner never envisioned he’d be in this position when he first came into the league.
His career turned out just fine. With his poise, leadership and a stout two-way skillset, Bergeron developed into the face of the franchise.
“My best memories are always what we’ve been able to accomplish as a team,” the 33-year-old centerman said. “Also the friends I have made, honestly that’s what I’m most proud of. What I’m getting from this game is the winning feeling and friends. It’s been special.”
The numbers — 778 points (305 goals, 473 assists) and an impressive plus-160 rating — prove he can score with the best in the business. But Bergeron’s impact on the defensive end is just as impressive.
Bergeron has made a living off of shutting down down top lines and making the gritty hustle plays. Bruce Cassidy preaches that hockey is just as much about keeping the puck out of your own net as it is putting it into theirs. That is Bergeron to a T.
“You have to have a lot of passion for the game to play that long and play that well,” Cassidy said about Bergeron’s career. “You watch these guys after practice, they love coming to the rink and enjoy working. That’s what makes them great leaders. Young players that come in watch guys that have played that long and have had success, but how hard they work day in and day out.”
Although 1,000 games can take its toll on the human body, Bergeron thinks his best years are ahead of him.
Boston’s assistant captain missed 16 games with a rib injury this season. But Bergeron’s production hasn’t taken a hit with 44 points in 36 contests. His cohesive chemistry with David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand are a major reason why the Bruins are still within striking distance of second place in the Atlantic Division.
Make no mistake about it, Tuesday is Bergeron’s night, and you will see plenty of fans wearing No. 37 on Causeway Street.