(Photo Credit: Thomas Calautti/BNG Productions)

By: Tom Calautti | Follow me on Twitter @TCalauttis

Patrice Bergeron took to the podium at precisely 11:30, right on time as he’s been his whole career. He emerged through the Legends Club door with a smile and an air of happiness as he made his way to the stage. Bergeron officially retired from the NHL yesterday morning, posting a long, heartfelt message to fans via the team’s social media page. The lifelong Bruin received an outpouring of support from fans, media, and fellow players as his announcement reverberated through the hockey world. Hockey Twitter lamented the loss of Bergeron, and Bruins fans invoked their favorite memes and gifs to express how sad they were about the captain’s retirement.

But as he sat in front of that microphone and stared at a crowd of anxious media members, Bergeron made it clear that this wasn’t a day for sorrow; it was a day to celebrate one of the greatest players ever wearing black and gold. “What I always wanted was to be a good role model for the younger generation,” said Bergeron about the legacy he wants to leave behind. “It was always important for me to kind of try to leave a good example and lead that way on and off the ice.”

Bergeron was very open about the thought process of his decision to retire, indicating that this was no spur-of-the-moment or split-second decision. “I think had an idea most of the year that there was a good chance it was (my) last year,” said Bergeron. “I feel like it’s the right decision for me. I’m excited for what’s to come.”

When pressed about what factors led to his final decision, Bergeron talked candidly about how important his health was going forward. “There were a lot of things that kind of influenced me, but obviously, the main thing is probably the body and spending more time with the family,” said Bergeron. He discussed how he still felt like he could play the game at a high level but that the physical toll was becoming more prominent. “It was more really the preparation, and it was taking a lot longer now. I couldn’t just put the equipment on and jump on the ice.”

Most of all, Bergeron seemed content with his decision and satisfied with the legacy he left behind in the city of Boston and the hockey world. He talked about stepping back and even acting as an “Uber driver” for his family moving forward. Cam Neely called it a “no-brainer” when asked about retiring Bergeron’s number, leaving no doubt that the Bruins organization will memorialize his incredible career.

The centerman made it clear to fans that over 20 years in this city, he did everything he could for this franchise. “One thing I’ll definitely say is that I left it all out there. I have no regrets. I gave my all.” Bergeron was a one-of-a-kind player in a one-of-a-kind town, and he will go down in history as the greatest Bruin of this generation.

Although we will miss his contributions on and off the ice, it’s important to remember everything he stood for and why he was so special to many of us. He was more than just a hockey player and more significant than just an icon. Patrice Bergeron was a role model, an exemplary individual who taught us all about class, professionalism, humility, and empathy. He exemplified how to be a phenomenal human being and an elite player at the top of his game. He was philanthropic, charitable, fierce, competitive, and an absolute pleasure to experience over the past 20 years. Patrice Bergeron was a once-in-a-lifetime player we’re lucky to have witnessed firsthand.

Congratulations on your retirement Patrice. You’ve earned it.