The hockey world was both surprised and confused when it found out the news surrounding Patrik Berglund just before Christmas of last year.
After over a decade in the NHL, Berglund — who turns 31 on Sunday — essentially packed his bags and left while playing for the Buffalo Sabres. He didn’t report to the team in December and his contract was terminated as a result. In the process, he walked away from the more than $12.5 million in salary remaining on the deal.
While the former St. Louis Blue had spoken a bit about what all went down in the weeks following, he recently had an in-depth chat with Blues rinkside reporter Andy Strickland on Strickland’s podcast ‘Hockey Sense’.
“I’m doing really well,” said Berglund over the phone. “Back home in Sweden, just kind of hanging out right now. Getting back to work, though. Working out and doing all that. Looking forward to playing hockey somewhere next year...”
Where exactly he’ll lace them up is unknown but a return to the NHL hasn’t been ruled out.
“I’ll keep the door open for the NHL, but I’ll also open a couple of doors here in Europe as well,” he said.
Based on his lack of success while hunting fairways, that’s probably a wise move.
“I’m swinging the golf clubs and I’m not getting any better at that so I might as well try to keep playing hockey for a couple more years,” he said with a chuckle.
It was well-documented that Berglund wasn’t happy when he was traded in the blockbuster deal that sent Ryan O’Reilly to St. Louis last summer.
Drafted by the Blues and serving as a regular contributor for the team for over ten seasons, St. Louis had become his home. He was playing alongside many of his best friends and, as a result, the move to a new organization wasn’t easy.
In his 23 regular season contests with the Sabres, he only had four points and slowly saw his ice time diminish.
“I had a hard time adjusting to it and just the situation overall in Buffalo,” he explained. “I didn’t agree with a lot of things and how they wanted to play me, how they wanted to do things. In the end, I... wasn’t enjoying hockey anymore. At that time, I didn’t want a trade, I didn’t want anything. I just kinda said to myself that I want to step away from it...”
At that point, he could have cared less about the money he was forfeiting.
“I don’t think that the contract and the money is the most important thing,” Berglund said. “For me, hockey is something that I love and something that I’m passionate about and, in the end, what happened last summer and walking into the season, I wasn’t happy with it.”
Berglund received plenty of support from the NHLPA and former teammates who were still with the Blues during his departure. He knew that he wasn’t retiring. He just needed some time to figure himself out and set his priorities straight.
“To be honest, I kind of knew even when everything that went down happened, I knew that I wanted to play,” he said. “That was my decision and I haven’t regretted it one second after I made it...”
Through it all, he’s been in regular contact with his friends in St. Louis and has watched their run towards the Stanley Cup. In fact, he and Jaden Schwartz, who has been on fire throughout the postseason, FaceTime weekly.
“I wish I was still playing for the boys, but I’m so happy for them,” he said. “I’m happy for the city. I’m happy for the fans. St. Louis deserves this...”
And if the Blues happen pull it off against the Boston Bruins, there’s no way Berglund will be missing that celebration.
“If they win, I’m goddamn Ubering or goddamn helicoptering across the Atlantic. I’ll be there.”
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