Cam Neely gives special praise of Patrice Bergeron's leadership

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Neely gives special praise of Bergeron's leadership originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Bruins have been very competitive since the NHL adopted a salary cap beginning with the 2005-06 season. Over that span, the B's have made the playoffs 12 times with three trips to the Stanley Cup Final and one championship.

One of the biggest reasons for that prolonged period of consistent success, according to team president Cam Neely, has been the franchise's leadership group.

"It's really, we're blessed to have the leadership group that we've had for the past decade. I think it starts there," Neely explained on a Zoom call with reporters Monday. "When you introduce new players to the organization, they either have to buy in or we'll find others that will. I think that our locker room is probably one of the best in the league as far as how the players really play for each other and really enjoy each other's company.

"It's a really tight group, and that starts with the leadership. It's also character, you've got to have the right players with the right character that know what it means to play here and understand what this market is as far as being a hockey player in Boston. All of those things combined, you certainly hope you can get all those ingredients and mix them all together properly. Fortunately, we're blessed that we've had that the past 10 years." 

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One of the key members of that leadership group is Bruins center Patrice Bergeron. The veteran forward made his B's debut in 2003-04, and he quickly established himself as a respected player in the Bruins locker room and around the league.

Bergeron took on a new role this season as team captain following Zdeno Chara's departure in free agency. What makes Bergeron such a great leader? Neely pointed to Bergeron's personal touch.

"There's been so much already said about Patrice and his character and his leadership abilities. He pulls people in as opposed to pushing them away," Neely said. "He really wants to get to know everybody. Not just as teammates, but also personally, and their families. I give him a ton of credit for how he does lead.

"I don't know if there's many guys like him, not just in hockey but maybe in sports generally, especially in team sports like we're playing in. Just because of his nature and how he is and how he works and the work ethic he has, it's hard for others not to follow that. It really is."

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Bergeron leads in many different ways, including his on-ice performance. He tallied four points (three goals, one assist) in the Bruins' five-game first-round series win over the Washington Capitals. His two goals in the Game 5 clincher on Sunday night helped propel the B's to the second round.

He is one of the Bruins' most important players, and if they are going to make a deep playoff run and return to the Stanley Cup Final, they will need Bergeron to be a key figure on and off the ice.