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After a brilliant 19-year career, Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron retires

The end of an era at TD Garden
WATCH: Reporter Kevin Paul Dupont breaks down Patrice Bergeron’s retirement news, from his legacy in Boston to what the Bruins will look like without him.

Next stop: The rafters.

Patrice Bergeron announced Tuesday morning that he is retiring after a remarkable 19-year career with the Bruins.

His No. 37 will soon hang above the Garden ice alongside other Boston greats Eddie Shore (No. 2), Lionel Hitchman (3), Bobby Orr (4), Aubrey “Dit” Clapper (5), Phil Esposito (7), Cam Neely (8), Johnny Bucyk (9), Milt Schmidt (15), Rick Middleton (16), Willie O’Ree (22), Terry O’Reilly (24), and Ray Bourque (77).

The preeminent two-way center of his generation, Bergeron, who turned 38 Monday, spent the last three seasons as Bruins captain, though his leadership was evident the day he arrived on Causeway Street as a second-round draft pick in 2003.

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“For the last 20 years I have been able to live my dream every day,” Bergeron wrote on the club’s social media accounts. “I have had the honor of playing in front of the best fans in the world wearing the Bruins uniform and representing my country at the highest levels of international play. I have given the game everything that I have physically and emotionally, and the game has given me back more than I could have ever imagined.

“It is with a full heart and a lot of gratitude that today I am announcing my retirement as a professional hockey player.”

Bergeron helped guide the Bruins to the Stanley Cup in 2011 and won a pair of Olympic gold medals with Team Canada. He ends his career still playing at an extraordinarily high level. Last month he won his record-extending sixth Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward. He was nominated for the honor 12 times, prompting many to suggest the NHL should consider changing the name of the award.

In his 19th season, Bergeron put up 27 goals and 31 assists for 58 points in 78 games. He missed four games in the playoffs because of a herniated disk in his back, scoring one goal in three games as the Bruins were eliminated by the Panthers in the first round.

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Teaming with longtime captain Zdeno Chara, Bergeron helped lead the Black and Gold out of the post- Bourque and Joe Thornton malaise. Though statistics are not a proper measure of his impact on the franchise, Bergeron sits third among all Bruins in games played (1,294), goals (427), and points (1,040), and fourth in assists (613). The only names ahead of him on those lists: Bourque and Bucyk (games played); Bucyk and Esposito (goals); Bourque, Bucyk, and Orr (assists); and Bourque and Bucyk (points).

In the playoffs, Bergeron ranks second in games (170), and third in goals (50), assists (78), and points (128). He scored 10 playoff game-winners (third in Bruins history, one behind Neely and Brad Marchand).

Bergeron scored two goals — including a memorable shorthander — in the Game 7 win over the Canucks that secured the Cup in 2011.

His Game 7 overtime strike in the 2013 first round against Toronto, which followed his extra-attacker tying goal with 51 seconds left in regulation, was an all-time Bruins playoff moment, and prompted one of the greatest radio calls in Boston sports history — Dave Goucher’s “Bergeron! Bergeron!”

Bergeron will have to wait at least three years, but there’s no doubt he will take his place among the game’s greats at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. It would be a surprise if he isn’t a unanimous first-ballot choice.

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His Stanley Cup (2011) and his membership in the exclusive Triple Gold club — gold medals for Canada in the Olympics (2010, 2014), World Championships (2006), and World Junior Championship (2005) — make him one of the strongest Hall of Fame candidates in years. His class and grace on and off the ice make it a no-brainer.

Like David Krejci, his longtime teammate and fellow center, Bergeron played 2022-23 on a remarkably team-friendly deal. He earned $2.5 million in salary, with another $2.5 million in performance bonuses. The latter, combined with Krejci’s achievement-based earnings ($2 million in bonuses beyond his $1 million salary), had the Bruins moving a league-high $4.5 million in salary-cap overages to their 2023-24 books.

Both general manager Don Sweeney and team president Neely indicated last month that money would not be an obstacle if Bergeron decided to return for a 20th campaign.

While many of Bergeron’s contemporaries have signed more lucrative contracts, he played his career mostly on modest deals. He never counted more than $6.875 million annually against the salary cap, or earned more than $8.75 million in actual salary, according to CapFriendly. That website estimated he earned north of $96 million in playing salary.

After his career nearly ended at age 22, on a hit from behind by Flyers defenseman Randy Jones in 2007, Bergeron became a fierce advocate in the fight against concussions and a proponent for mental health. He played through many below-the-shoulder injuries, including a car-crash list (cracked rib, torn cartilage, punctured lung, separated shoulder) in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final.

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Succeeding Chara as captain in 2021, Bergeron led the Bruins with an empathetic bent, a focus on family (he and his wife, Stephanie, have four young children), and a devotion to the club’s process. Marchand, his linemate since 2010 and the obvious choice to succeed him wearing the “C,” was taking mental notes.

Bergeron is the rare professional athlete who is not replaceable.

“I didn’t know that he was that good,” Bruins coach Jim Montgomery said at last month’s NHL Awards. “He’s incredible. He’s the best defensive player I’ve ever had the fortune to watch or see. And he does it daily.

“And then, his ability to impact others and make them better people is the other thing that I didn’t know. I’d heard he was a great leader. Everybody talks so highly of him, but when you’re around it daily, it’s special and you learn from it. And I think I’m a better person because of that.”

Former Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said yesterday, in a statement released by the Golden Knights: “I’d like to offer my congratulations to Patrice on a legendary career. It was a privilege and an honor to work with such a first-class player and person. Thank you for all you have done and I wish you, Steph, and your children all the best.”

Matt Porter of the Globe staff contributed to this report

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Jim McBride can be reached at james.mcbride@globe.com. Follow him @globejimmcbride.