Patrice Bergeron, who clips pucks at the faceoff dot with the efficiency that a pickpocket works Times Square, pocketed his record fourth Selke Award Wednesday night as the league’s top defensive forward during the NHL’s awards ceremony in Las Vegas.
It tied Bergeron, 31 years old, with Montreal Hall of Fame forward Bob Gainey for the most Selkes in league history.
“It’s a huge honor,” said Bergeron, reached by phone shortly after collecting the award. “Just to receive it from Mr. Gainey on stage made it hit home, realizing it was my fourth — one of those things I couldn’t do without my teammates. It means a lot. I am really humbled right now.”
Gainey, 63, was an integral part of the Montreal teams that rattled off four consecutive Stanley Cups (1976-79). Bergeron, born in 1985 in Quebec City, some two hours northeast of Montreal, was not even 4 years old when Gainey wrapped up his stellar career with the Habs in the spring of ’89.
“I don’t think I saw him play live,” recalled Bergeron, who led the league in faceoff wins again in 2016-17. “But I definitely saw a bunch of games with him playing, you know . . . I was a huge Nordiques fan and he was always playing them. I heard so much about Mr. Gainey back in Quebec City and in Quebec in general, all the things he did in Quebec as a role model. I knew a lot about him as a kid, and definitely looked up to him.”
Bergeron, his game well-rounded and defensively oriented already when he arrived in Boston as a teenager, said he began taking the defensive game to heart in his days as a mite player in Quebec City.
“It wasn’t like a specific thought, ‘I want to be a defensive forward one day,’ ” said Bergeron, recalling his dream of playing in the NHL. “It was more the fact that I’ve always taken a lot of pride in my defensive game, as much as scoring goals. And that goes back to those mites years, with the coach always telling us to backcheck, and I would listen and do it.”
His dedication to the art of faceoffs came later, said Bergeron, who credited Real Paiement and Marc Bureau, two of his junior coaches, for helping him with the craft.
“Honestly, junior was when I really started to pay a lot of attention to it,” he said. “Marc was a center, and an assistant coach [with Acadie-Bathurst], and he really worked a lot with me. That’s when I learned a lot, and also realized that I needed to be better to take the next step.”
Bergeron said he is recovering well after undergoing surgery six weeks ago for a hernia injury that nagged him throughout much of the 2016-17 season. He figures his recuperation is ahead of schedule, though he won’t resume skating until August, some six weeks later than his typical offseason schedule.
“Feeling good, so far so good,” he said. “I can’t lift too much weight right now. It’s mostly rehab, no skating, but I can do conditioning on the bike. I feel very confident I’ll be ready for camp.”
The night’s other big winners: young Oilers star Connor McDavid won the Hart (MVP) and Ted Lindsay trophies (most outstanding player); the Sharks’ Brent Burns took the Norris (top defenseman), Sergei Bobrovsky of the Blue Jackets was the Vezina winner (top goaltender); Auston Matthews of the Maple Leafs won the Calder (rookie of the year); and BC’s own Johnny Gaudreau of the Flames was named the Lady Byng winner (sportsmanship).