The Toughest Athletes Ever: Patrice Bergeron

Patrice "Bergy" Bergeron-Cleary

The toughest athletes aren’t just the ones who play through pain, they’re the ones who laugh in the face of traumatic injuries, the ones the trainers need to handcuff to the bench to keep them out of a game, even when they’re bleeding, bleary-eyed and hopelessly broken. The toughest athletes will give up an arm and a leg for a win, or even a chance at a win, because the win is the only thing that matters.

There are few wins bigger, and tougher, than a Stanley Cup. The NHL playoffs are, without a doubt, the most gruelling in professional sports—two months of unrelenting pain from blocked slapshots, bone-rattling checks, wrestling matches for every loose puck, and even the occasional fistfight, all for the chance to plant a smooch on Lord Stanley.

So imagine this barrage of physical punishment and constant exhaustion, and imagine trying to endure it with a hole in one of your lungs. And while you can’t breathe, imagine one of your arms isn’t properly attached anymore. Still want to convince the coach you can go back in?

If you’re Patrice Bergeron, that’s not even a question you’ve thought of, because you’re too busy getting an intercostal block (a needle full of anesthetic jabbed into the nerves under your ribs) or two and getting back in the game.

Bergeron isn’t known for being a prototypical “tough guy,” but fighting through that much pain earns anyone a lifetime membership in the tough guy club. In Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals he tore the cartilage in his chest that holds his ribs and sternum together, he broke a rib in Game 5, then he suffered a separated shoulder and punctured (and eventually collapsed) lung in Game 6, which finally landed him a three-day hospital stay. But there’s no chance any of those aches measure up to the heartbreak of losing the Stanley Cup in the final seconds of that sixth game.

Now that it’s all over, he’s avoided surgery and has time to recuperate, things are looking up for Bergeron. He signed an eight-year, $52-million contract a couple of weeks ago to stay with the Bruins and just this week was announced as an invitee to orientation camp for Canada’s 2014 Olympic team. His legendary toughness and his willingness to play through unthinkable pain has earned him the admiration of his peers, a pile of money, and—perhaps most importantly—a reputation as one of the toughest athletes ever.

Tags: Hockey, NHL

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