( Photo Credit: AP / Michael Dwyer )

By: Tim Dumas | Follow me on Twitter @TimDumas  

Bobby Orr’s final game in a Bruins uniform included little fanfare. Larry Bird’s last game included no fanfare. Ted Williams’ final at-bat resulted in a home run, but he refused when the Fenway Park fans demanded a curtain call. Tom Brady’s last pass in a Patriots uniform was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. 

Conversely, David Ortiz was feted for three days during his final regular season weekend and was given a standing ovation after his last at-bat (a walk against Cleveland in a division-series loss) in a Boston uniform a week later. 

But if Sunday’s overtime loss to Florida was Patrice Bergeron’s final game, it will go down as the most heartbreaking sendoff in Boston sports history. The image of the Bruins’ captain tearfully embracing each of his teammates as they left the ice – including long hugs with longtime comrades David Krejci and Brad Marchand – could mark the final time Bergeron is seen in a Boston uniform. 

Bergeron did not register any points on Sunday but won 74% of his faceoffs, unsurprisingly. The Montreal native is second all-time for the Bruins in playoff games (170) and points (128, tied with Krejci), behind Ray Bourque in both categories. 

Krejci can also retire after playing all 16 of his NHL seasons in Boston. He and Bergeron combined for 35 seasons, 1,826 points, and 2,326 games. In Boston, Bergeron’s No. 37 and Krejci’s No. 46 will never be worn again. 

But it was Bergeron who had been the team’s glue since he first pulled on the Black and Gold. He scored his first career goal on October 18, 2003, back when Brady was in his third season with the Patriots, and Ortiz concluded his first with the Red Sox just two days after Aaron Boone’s home run ended their season.  

Bergeron notched eight career hat tricks, but his most memorable goal was on May 13, 2013, when he potted the overtime winner to clinch a comeback from a 4-1 third-period deficit in a game seven playoff victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Bergeron’s final goal this season was a power-play tally in game five against Florida on April 30. He is third all-time in games (1,294), goals (427), and points (1,040) for the Bruins. 

As sad as his Garden farewell was on Sunday, at least he and the fans had the opportunity to say goodbye. That didn’t happen for two other Garden legends, Orr and Bird. Orr’s final game at home was November 25, 1975; he had an assist in a 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings. His last game as a Bruin was the next night against the Rangers in New York, a 6-4 win powered by Orr’s goal and assist. 

Three days later, Orr had season-ending knee surgery, and his next game was in a Chicago Blackhawks uniform the following season. 

Bird’s last game (16 points, 14 assists) at the Garden was game six of the Eastern Conference semifinals against Cleveland on May 15, 1992. His last game in green (12 points, no three-point attempts) was two days later when the Celtics lost game seven in Cleveland. Bird retired that August. 

Bergeron’s farewell on Sunday compares on an emotional level with the time when three members of the Bruins – Milt Schmidt, Woody Dumart, and Bobby Bauer – were carried off the ice by their teammates and members of their rivals, the Montreal Canadiens. After an 8-1 win over Montreal at the Garden on February 10, 1942, the teams hoisted the trio onto their shoulders as Schmidt, Dumart, and Bauer – members of the team’s famed “Kraut” line – prepared to fight in World War II. 

While both teams swelled with pride that night as the players were paraded off to a standing ovation, Bergeron’s stick-raising salute to the fans on Sunday night brought tears to admirers both at the emptying Garden and at home.  

We may never see Bergeron skate in the NHL again, or his career end in such a heartbreaking fashion.