Patrice Bergeron Is the Right Boston Bruin to Help Avert an NHL Lockout

Al DanielCorrespondent IIJune 27, 2012

MONTREAL, CANADA - APRIL 21:  Patrice Bergeron #37 of the Boston Bruins waits for a faceoff in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Montreal Canadiens during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Bell Centre on April 21, 2011 in Montreal, Canada. The Boston won 5-4.  (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)
Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images

Last week, Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron joined his fellow NHL award nominees in offering his assessment of the forthcoming CBA talks.

As reported by beat writer Joe Haggerty, Bergeron said, “If I’m asked I’ll definitely get involved.”

Well then, here’s a note of advice to the Bruins and the NHL in general for that matter: Ask Bergeron to get involved.

Having debuted at the start of the 2003-04 season, which immediately preceded the season-killing lockout of 2004-05, Bergeron is the only Bruin to have been with the organization through that ordeal and the entire reconstruction period.

Out of that unique combination of knowledge and control should come motivation to help ensure a timely deal that pleases the NHL, NHLPA and their shared customers.

As if the urgency to avert another public relations setback for the league and the sport were not enough, Bergeron ought to know firsthand what another work stoppage could do to his franchise. He has lived through the Bruins’ ups and downs on the ice, at the gate and in the media dating back to when they finished second in the Eastern Conference during his rookie campaign.

The promise of that 2003-04 season, built on a 41-19-22 regular season and initial 3-1 series lead over rival Montreal, was nimbly zapped when the Habs roared back to take the first round of the playoffs in seven games.

Accordingly, the Bruins rapidly receded into the doom-and-gloom atmosphere of the NHL’s 2004 offseason.

When they finally came back to commence the 2005-06 season, they were mystery men with a multitude of new faces. And they were doubly damaged by their 18-month absence and the success of some neighboring sports teams.

The night the NHL opened its first post-lockout season, while the Bruins hosted the Canadiens, the Red Sox were engaging the White Sox in the MLB playoffs as part of their first World Series title defense in 86 years.

At the same time, the Patriots were one month into a campaign that had them vying for their third straight Super Bowl and fourth in five years.

All the Bruins did upon their return was regress to old habits, posting their worst winning percentage since 1999-2000 and missing the playoffs for the fourth time in a decade. A coaching change from Mike Sullivan to Dave Lewis the next season brought only an infinitesimal two-point improvement and a plunge in nightly attendance from 16,211 to 14,764 fans.

That nightly median for the 2006-07 season was, and still is, the worst in the team’s 17-year history at the 17,565-seat TD Garden.

Although Bergeron missed the bulk of the next season with an October concussion, things gradually began to turn around in 2007-08.

But only devout puckheads noticed it. The rest of New England was overwhelmingly occupied with the Red Sox garnering another Commissioner’s Trophy, the Patriots falling one win shy of a perfect 19-0 and the new trinity of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen bringing the Celtics to the summit of the NBA.

The 2007-08 Bruins returned to the playoffs in front of an average of 15,384 spectators per home game.

In each year since, they have crossed the 17,000 threshold, but it wasn’t until their own championship run in 2010-11 that they finally began to sell every ticket, every night.

For what it’s worth, the 2011-12 season mildly mirrored that of 2003-04 in that Boston finished second in the East, only to fizzle in the first round of the playoffs with a Game 7 loss on home ice.

And so, the two options now are quite simple. The Bruins can do their part to ensure they are back at it with their full core on time to start kicking ice chips over that loss to the Capitals and retaining their contender’s persona.

Or they can risk bobbling their relevance through another protracted period of inactivity while the Sox, Pats and Celtics do who knows what to nab more of the limelight.

The Patriots, after all, are coming off another Super Bowl appearance while the Celtics were one win away from the 2012 NBA finals earlier this month. And don’t assume that the Red Sox can’t turn around for a second-half surge in their season.

The Bruins need to stay on schedule and stay in contention to keep up with the teams sharing their fanbase. Fans know it, pundits know it and Bergeron would know it better than any current player or coach on the team.