Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron wears a neck brace as he faces reporters during a news conference, in Boston, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2007. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Steven Senne
Patrice Bergeron measures his victories in much different ways these days. Being able to ride the bike for seven minutes last week, up from five minutes, is a huge win as he recovers from a Grade 3 concussion.
Pile up enough of those victories and perhaps one day before the end of the season he'll reach his ultimate goal: to be back on the ice with the Boston Bruins.
"Obviously I want to be back again this year, that's my goal and I'm shooting for that," the talented centre said Monday in an interview with The Canadian Press. "But I don't want to rush things. You don't mess with the head. The brain is the most important piece of your body and you don't want to mess with that. You want to make sure you're 100 per cent.
"But I want to be back this year for sure."
Bergeron, 22, said it's night and day from where he was in the days after his Oct. 27 injury, when Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Randy Jones hit him from behind into the boards and sent him to hospital.
"It's a huge difference," he said. "The first couple of days after the incident I could barely walk, I could barely stand up. I was lying down all day, I had huge headaches and nausea. I couldn't do much. Right now obviously I can concentrate longer. It's still not 100 per cent because after a while I get tired or I get a headache.
"But now I can walk, I can come and watch the games once in a while, I can come and say hi to the guys."
Just being around his teammates and watching their games has been therapeutic.
"For sure, that helps a lot," said Bergeron, who had 70 points (22-48) in 77 games last season. "I knew that hockey was my passion. But it's when you stop playing that you realize you miss it so much. I've missed the game so much the past few months. Now that I can come back to the rink and see the guys, it's brought a positive attitude and it's helping me a lot to get through the days."
It's slow going to be sure. He got a small headache at the end of his bike session last week and was told to rest for a few days.
"Every week I'm getting better but obviously it's not where I'd like to be. I'd like to be on the ice right now," said Bergeron. "And I'm not close to going back on the ice. But at least we've started to work out. I've been on the bike three times so far. I felt OK. The last time I had small little headaches, so we decided to take more time off and see what happens after that.
"I'm feeling good, I feel a lot better, but not exactly where I want to be."
The question everybody close to him would like an answer to simply has no answer right now. When exactly will he be back?
"I don't know," he said. "At first I was setting goals for myself, but I don't want to do that. It's too frustrating if I set a goal for next month and I don't achieve it. I'll feel like it's a disappointment. My main concern is to get back to 100 per cent and get back on the ice. But I just need to go through the steps, keep climbing the ladder until that can happen."
As bad as things were in the first few days after the injury, Bergeron said he never allowed himself to think the worst: that his career was over.
"No, not at all. I never thought that. I've always been pretty positive about the injury. I knew it was going to take a while, but it never crossed my mind that my career was over."
Bergeron says he holds no ill will towards Jones, who was suspended two games.
"I'm not angry at Randy Jones, I've never been angry," said Bergeron. "The only thing is, I still think it was a hit from behind. I don't think there's any need for that in the game. I'm not going to change anything I've said. I don't have any anger towards him but I just want to make sure it doesn't happen to anyone else in the game. That's all. I don't want those kinds of hits in the game. It's also for the kids. They're watching the game and they're watching us, they're idolizing us."
It's about respect among players in the game. Bergeron made his feelings known during a lunch with NHL Players' Association executive director Paul Kelly.
"It was a good talk," said Bergeron. "But I think it starts from the players. We all need to think about the consequences before we step on the ice, to think what can happen if you hit this guy from behind. Something bad can happen so just don't do it. It comes down to you as a person and a player to take responsibility."