It just so happened that Sebastian Gomez, a boyhood friend of Patrice Bergeron from Quebec City, picked this week to follow the Bruins.
Gomez has been shooting a documentary on Bergeron that he is pitching to RDS, the French-Canadian ESPN equivalent.
But when the 22-year-old center crumpled to the TD Banknorth Garden ice in the first period yesterday, Gomez saw his friend, not his subject, lying unconscious behind the Philadelphia net.
For the final two periods, when all most fans knew was that Bergeron had been knocked out and transported to Massachusetts General Hospital, Gomez was on the phone with people from back home who were fearing the worst.
But when Bergeron was diagnosed with a concussion and a broken nose and reported full feeling and motion in his extremities, Gomez felt the same emotion that washed over everybody when they heard the news.
"You see a guy lying on the ice like that, obviously it's pretty disheartening," said Andrew Ference after the Bruins' 2-1 loss. "It's obviously a relief."
Concussion and busted nose were a godsend considering the circumstances of Bergeron's injury. In the first period with the score 0-0, Bergeron was skating hard into the Philadelphia zone after a puck. As Bergeron, facing the wall, batted the puck away, defenseman Randy Jones hit him from behind, sending the forward facefirst into the boards.
Bergeron, knocked out by the hit, fell backward after colliding with the boards and was motionless on the ice with his head tilted at an awkward angle. Play was halted at 16:07 as trainers, emergency officials, and team orthopedist Dr. Thomas Gill made their way onto the ice. Bergeron's gloves and uniform were cut away. His legs were taped together and his arms were taped across his chest before he was lifted onto a stretcher and wheeled off the ice. Glen Murray told NESN between periods that Bergeron was talking as he was taken off.
Bergeron was treated at Mass. General by Bertram Zarins, the club's head physician, who reported that after initial X-rays and a CT scan, the alternate captain did not sustain a serious injury to his head or neck. Gerard Cleary and Sylvie Bergeron, the center's parents, were in attendance and traveled to Mass. General with their son. Bergeron remained at the hospital last night.
Bergeron has never been diagnosed with a concussion as a pro. He missed five games because of knee and oblique injuries last year.
"It was a really bad, bad hit from behind," said captain Zdeno Chara. "It's really tough for teammates to see one of your teammates go down like that. There's no room for that."
Jones issued a statement in the middle of the game expressing concern for Bergeron.
"Words really can't express the way that I feel right now," said Jones. "I am very apologetic for the hit and what I did. It was not intentional. It is something that I have never done before and it is not part of my character. I am extremely sorry. I hope he does OK and everything works out for him. I wish him nothing but the best in his recovery."
Jones was called for a five-minute boarding major and a game misconduct. Jones faces a possible suspension from the league.
"I don't think that's accidental," coach Claude Julien said. "So yes, it was a dirty hit."
It was the third major incident involving Philadelphia this season. In the preseason, forward Steve Downie left his skates and leveled Ottawa's Dean McAmmond, delivering a concussion to the forward. Downie was suspended for 20 games. On Oct. 10, forward Jesse Boulerice tagged Vancouver forward Ryan Kesler in the face with a high stick. Boulerice was suspended for 25 games.
"It's almost come to the point where you have to throw the guy out. You're done," said Marc Savard. "It's just stupidity. Are we waiting for someone who can't walk anymore or something stupid like that?"
It had been a physical game before Bergeron's injury. Shawn Thornton and Philadelphia forward Riley Cote fought at 9:02 of the first period. Fifteen seconds later, Milan Lucic fought with forward Ben Eager.
"The point of hitting is to knock the other guy off the puck and change possession of the puck," said Ference. "The point of hitting isn't to hurt somebody. That's where some guys are mistaken.
"They're just going out and running around and not even caring where the puck is. You see a guy vulnerable for as big a hit as possible, they're going to take it. It's not the point of contact in our sport."
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com.