(Photo Credit: John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe)

By: Andrew Bluestein | Follow Me On Twitter / X @adbblue

For almost the last two decades, the Boston Bruins have been among the most respected organizations in the NHL and professional sports. They have been known to have a welcoming and inclusive team culture in and out of the locker room.

This stemmed from the leadership of the players and started when Zedano Chara was signed back in the 2006 off-season and named the team’s 25th captain. Following him was Patrice Bergeron, and this past off-season, after Bergeron retired, Brad Marchand was appointed to the role. 

What Chara helped establish in Boston from a cultural standpoint had and still has an impact that rings throughout the organization. He made it a point of emphasis that no matter who you were or what your role was with the team, everyone was seen as equal. He even went as far as removing the term “rookie” from the language of the dressing room. He wanted everyone to make sure that they felt like they were a part of the team. 

This mentality laid the foundation for a culture that has remained intact up until now. It’s safe to say doing things this way has helped create a stronger bond with players, coaches and employees throughout the organization and has contributed to long-term success. Leading by example goes a long way, especially when observing it right before you for many years. That was the case for Patrice Bergeron, who played with Chara for 14 seasons. 

It’s clear Bergeron was playing close attention, as he served as the alternate captain beginning in the 2006-07 season up until Chara left and signed with the Washington Capitals ahead of the 2021 season. It was no secret Bergeron would become his successor wearing the C and deservingly so. Although the six-time Selke Trophy winner only served as the captain for three seasons, he had helped establish the culture that was built alongside Chara. 

Bergeron wasn’t the most vocal leader, but his actions were what spoke the loudest. A great example of his leadership was during the 2018-19 season when he checked in on former Bruins forward Gemel Smith. Smith was claimed off waivers from the Dallas Stars that season and was a healthy scratch most nights. Bergeron sensed something was up with Smith and had a conversation discussing the importance of mental health; he told Smith he had dealt with depression in the past. Smith was grateful for his advice and took it, leading him to reach out to a sports psychologist. It was what Bergeron did in 2007 after suffering a major concussion, putting him out for the rest of the year. Doing this helped him get back on the right path, and it did the same for Smith. 

Just doing simple things like that that are big picture and more about life than hockey is what makes a great captain. It’s also something that has surely helped Brad Marchand turn into the leader he’s become, as he was named the team’s 27th captain in franchise history prior to this season. Marchand has come a long way since his rookie season in 2010-2011, as his character on the ice has been widely criticized, and rightfully so. He’s been suspended eight separate times, the most in NHL history. 

But, for the most part, Marchand has cleaned up his act, and his maturity has grown substantially. Playing many years with Chara and Bergeron has undeniably been a large factor in that. Absorbing what those two guys exemplified as leaders have helped mold Marchand into the player and person he is today. He’s well known as one of the most thoughtful and respectful players off the ice, which earned being the captain in the organization’s eyes. The culture that Chara, Bergeron, and Marchand have built has made the transition of a new captaincy seamless, and it’s sure to stay that way in the future.