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Kevin Cullen

Patrice Bergeron belongs in Boston

Patrice Bergeron is due for a long-term contract extension from the Bruins.

John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Patrice Bergeron is due for a long-term contract extension from the Bruins.

I’m still trying to figure out how the Patriots managed to give millions of dollars to a player who had as many flies on him as Aaron Hernandez.

I mean, really, you’re about to hand the kid, and I do mean kid, $40 million and you don’t know that when he’s not on the practice field or in the weight room he’s hanging out with gangbangers watching “Scarface” over and over again?

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My pal Teddy McDonough from West Lynn was a Marine — or is a Marine, because there’s no such thing as a former Marine — but, more importantly for the purpose of this discussion, he is also a private investigator. I’m guessing that if the Patriots had given T McDonough a few bucks he would have saved them 40 million.

But that’s water under the bridge.

And then there are the Celtics. I respect Danny Ainge, who runs the team these days, and he played for some great teams with Bird and DJ and Parish and McHale, but the Celtics just blew a chance to honor their unrivaled tradition by rewarding Paul Pierce by making him a Celtic for life. He was traded away, which had to hurt a guy like Pierce, who has been bleeding green for a long time.

The irony in looking at Paul Pierce through the prism of Aaron Hernandez is that he could have gone down the same road that the troubled Patriots tight end did. In fact, Pierce was going down that road.

When he was first a Celtic, he was hanging out with the wrong crowd. He got stabbed in a shady nightclub and almost died.

But he lived and he changed. He became as good a partner and as good a father as he was a post-up guy, a guy who gave LeBron and Kobe headaches.

I know a lot of kids in Dorchester who Paul Pierce helped. He left the wild side and became a solid citizen, a good guy, and perhaps the best scorer in the history of the Celtics.

I wish the Celtics did the right thing and made him a Celtic for life, but, hey, that’s business.

Which brings us to another guy who plays in the same building.

When Patrice Bergeron came to Boston a decade ago, he was a kid out of Quebec who was comfortable on the ice but not especially comfortable speaking English. Over the years, his English got better, as did his game.

More importantly, Bergeron was and is a wonderful human being.

Over the years, he became an all-star and he became one of us.

He learned English the same way he learned there are no such things here as hero sandwiches. They’re submarines.

He learned you can pay big money for a fine cut of prime rib at Abe & Louie’s, but if you want a roast beef sandwich you go to Revere Beach and stand in line at Kelly’s.

He learned that half the people who cheer for him and the Bruins know that this team, with their heart, is every bit as strong as teams that had names like Orr and Esposito and Cheevers and Awrey and Hodge and Cashman and McKenzie and Bucyk, and that connection is cosmic and peculiar to this town.

Patrice Bergeron, Bergy to his friends and fans, is looking for a long-term contract. We have seen, particularly with the Red Sox, where that leads.

But Bergeron deserves it.

He is the anti-Aaron Hernandez. He played hurt and he played well. He spends nearly as much time in Children’s Hospital and the Franciscan Hospital for Children as he does on the ice.

He brings sick kids to the Garden to watch the Bruins. He wins more hearts than he does faceoffs, and he wins almost all his faceoffs.

Bergeron deserves a long-term contract on the merits of what he does on the ice.

But it’s what he does off the ice that seals the deal.

Bergy belongs in Boston.

Forever.

He is one of us.

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at cullen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeCullen.
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