Bergeron praises former coach Sullivan

BOSTON -- When Boston Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron arrived at his first training camp in the fall of 2003, the English language and the NHL were two foreign entities for the then-18-year-old.

Bergeron, who was a second-round pick (45th overall) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, quickly opened the eyes of then-Bruins coach Mike Sullivan. Bergeron was the best player in camp and earned a spot on the roster, and ever since he’s been one of the most consistent players in the league.

Sullivan was a rookie coach in the NHL and only two years removed from retiring as a player. Bergeron earned the young coach’s respect and admiration and the two formed a quick bond. Their player-coach relationship, however, lasted only two seasons as Sullivan was relived of his duties prior to the 2006-2007 season.

Sullivan has kept a close eye on Bergeron’s career and now the two face each other in the Eastern Conference semifinal series, as Sullivan is an assistant coach for the New York Rangers.

“He meant a lot to me,” Bergeron said. “Just to give me a chance to prove myself, to be here and to stay. He gave me the confidence to get better as a player, to learn, starting to make plays and he gave me the ice time. Obviously, we had a lot of veterans, but Sully was really a big part of it, just the way that he helped me and the way that he talked to me. As an 18-year-old coming in not knowing much about the language, or the pro life, I’ll never be able to thank him enough for what he did for me as a young kid coming in.”

Under strict rules by Rangers head coach John Tortorella, he and his coaching staff will only talk about the Rangers, so Sullivan was not able to reciprocate he thoughts about Bergeron.