BOSTON -- Not every great player gets to retire when he or she is still performing at an elite level. Unfortunately, a sharp decline in performance often results in retirement for a lot of players, which can be tough for both them and the fans to experience.
No one likes to see an all-time player go out that way.
Patrice Bergeron didn't have to go through any of that. The Boston Bruins center announced his retirement Tuesday after 19 NHL seasons, and he leaves the sport while still considered one of the very best players at his position.
"There are a lot of things that influence (my decision). The main things are probably the body and spending more time with family," Bergeron said during his retirement press conference Wednesday at TD Garden. "I've always wanted to play the game at the highest level I could, and I wanted to leave on top of my game."
More Patrice Bergeron coverage
Bergeron scored 27 goals last season, extending his streak of scoring 20-plus times to 10 years. He also chipped in 31 assists for 58 points in 78 games.
And as the chart below illustrates, he also continued to drive puck possession (shot attempt percentage), shots on net, scoring chances and goals at an elite rate. The ice was tilted heavily in Boston's favor when Bergeron was on the ice during 5-on-5 action. It was no surprise last month when he was voted the winner of the Selke Trophy for a record sixth time.
Bergeron admitted that the preparation was getting harder as his career went on, but in regards to his on-ice hockey skills, he still felt really good in Year 19.
“I think the biggest thing was probably the preparation to get to the ice," Bergeron said. "I guess, the stretching and the mobility that you have to stay on top of. The preparation to get on the ice for practice was getting longer, the games, it just took me more time to prepare. And as far as the game goes, there’s always parts of your game that you feel like it’s not quite there. It’s more of a -- mentally you’re just pushing yourself to be better and be on top of your game as much as possible. I think you’re always trying to work on things, and you’re never satisfied. I’ve always been that way, so it’s hard to really say how I felt my game was. ..."
"But I felt good. I felt good on the ice, felt good skating, felt good making plays and what not. I felt like the game was still slowing down when I had the puck, and it’s not like I felt like I had no time and space or I couldn’t create time and space for myself. It was more the preparation. It was taking a lot longer now. I couldn’t just put the equipment on and jump on the ice.”
Leaving at a time when he could still make a major on-ice impact wasn't a requirement for Bergeron when deciding whether to retire, but he's definitely appreciative that he can step away from the sport he loves as a great player and not someone clearly on the back nine. We've seen lots of players limp to the finish line of their careers. That didn't happen with Bergeron. He was highly effective to the end.
"I started when I was 18. It's been 20 years. It's a lot," Bergeron explained. "It's a lot physically and mentally. I didn't necessarily need to leave on top of my game, but I'm glad I am. I feel good about that. It was more the body and the mileage with all the games, and also spending time with family. I have four kids now and I'm glad to be spending more time at home. I felt like it was the right time."