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03-06-2011, 07:08 PM
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Gary Bergman, D

Legends of Hockey Bio:
Gary Bergman was a solid all-around defenseman in his 12-year NHL tenure. A fine skater with a knack for making smart decisions on offense, he also took a physical approach to the game when guarding his end of the ice. Known primarily for his decade long service in Detroit, Bergman also impressed as a member of Team Canada during the 1972 Summit Series.
His well-rounded play made him useful on both the power-play and penalty-killing units for the Wings. Although he incurred his share of penalties, Bergman wasn't considered a surly opponent on the ice. He rarely looked for trouble but also never backed down from an onrushing opponent, whether he was a fancy scorer or a power forward.
Bergman's consistent play often went unnoticed in the early 1970s. All eyes were on young superstars like Bobby Orr and Brad Park.
Bergman played a lot of minutes during his prime in the NHL. While time on ice was not recorded at the time, we can estimate it from the number of goals the player was on the ice for, starting in 1967-68.

Here are the leaders among defenceman in estimated time on ice per game over the six years from 67-68 to 72-73.

1. Bobby Orr, 30.3
2. JC Tremblay, 28.7
3. Pat Stapleton, 28.6
4. Gary Bergman, 28.2
5. Jacques Laperriere, 27.9

The leaders in estimated even strength ice time per game over the same period.

1. Gary Bergman, 22.9
2. Pat Stapleton, 22.8
3. Jacques Laperriere, 22.6
4. Bill White, 22.3
5. Bobby Orr, 22.2

Bergman had some offensive skills. Over the period 1966-67 to 1971-72, he had 206 points, 4th among defencemen over that time (Orr, Stapleton, Tremblay). 154 of those points came at even strength, 3rd among defencemen (Orr, Stapleton).

Gary Bergman played in all 8 games for Canada in the 1972 Summit Series. From Joe Pelletier's profile of Bergman, here are some quotes about his play there.
"I'm so happy when I look back on that series that we picked him,'' Sinden said 28 years later. " We thought he had the character, integrity and type of personality that would add to our team, and we were exactly right in our assessment.

"He was one of the biggest surprises in terms of contribution that we had. We felt he could be a regular member of the team but his contribution exceeded that. He was a terrific member of the team, and well respected.''

"Team Canada was loaded with offensive talent and I believe I did what the situation dictated. I decided I could be more useful by bumping into the opposition and keeping my own end of the rink clean.", Gary said a few years after the series.
Paul Henderson, the hero of the 1972 series and a former teammate of Gary in Detroit. "From my perspective, he was one of the great unsung heroes of that series,. He just played incredible hockey.''

"He was an above-average player in the NHL at that time and he proved that during the series,'' Bill White, one of the 1972 team's other defencemen, said. " Bergie gave a great account of himself in that whole series. The steadiness of his play is what I remember most.''

"He was a rock,'' said Bobby Orr who didn't play in the series due to a knee injury but who travelled with the team and was impressed with Gary's steady play.

"We hit it off really good for guys who didn't know each other very well,'' said his defensive partner Brad Park. " I was more of an offensive guy so we jelled very well together.

"Right away I realized what a classy guy he was in how he handled himself on and off the ice, and what a great competitor he was. He had a lot of confidence in his ability and wasn't worried about how he was going to play. He just went out and played. He was as solid a defenceman as has ever played the game.''
Pat McLean of the blog Black Dog Hates Skunks rewatched the 1972 Summit Series on DVD and tracked shots at net and scoring chances for both teams, recording the Canadian players who were on the ice for each event.

Game 1
Game 2
Game 3
Game 4
Game 5
Game 6
Game 7
Game 8

Here are his numbers for Bergman, along with his observations.

Game 1: Scoring chances with Bergman on - 9-5 ES, 3-0 PP, 0-1 SH.
Bergman and Park are quite strong and end up a plus in both metrics, they do get dinged late in the third a bit. Park is terrific and Bergman, an unheralded defensive defenceman, is solid, breaking up a two on one easily, angling his men just fine. In other words although he benefits from playing with Park he holds his own and never looks out of place.

On the other hand the second pair gets smoked right from the start. Basically when Park and Bergman are on the ice the puck is in the right end and when XXXXX and XXXXX are on the ice its the opposite.
Game 2. Scoring chances with Bergman on - 4-2 ES, 2-0 PP, 0-2 SH.
The D pairings are fairly reasonable. Park and Bergman take on the majority of the defensive draws in the first two periods while Stapleton and White are sheltered, they get all neutral or offensive zone faceoffs up until the third. Savard and Lapointe only get a couple of defensive draws in the first two periods. Truth is though, the Russians get very few draws in Canada's zone in periods one and two so while I do think Sinden runs out Park and Bergman as much as he can I also think he is able to do so because Canada has the advantage. In the third the Russians come on a little and get more draws in the Canadian zone. I think Sinden goes to a regular rotation at this point for a few reasons. He can't run Park and Bergman out over and over again. Also while they have been good they have not been great. And finally I think that the other two pairs have been fine and thus have gained the coach's confidence.
Game 3. Scoring chances with Bergman on - 10-4 ES, 0-0 PP, 0-3 SH.
On the blueline Sinden runs three pairs again. For the most part he rolls them. It looks to my eye like Bergman and Park tend to get the Kharlamov line quite a bit but overall there isn't much going on.

Park and Bergman end up with terrific numbers again and its easy to see why. Park was considered the second best defenceman of that generation, behind only Orr. He is a tremendous skater, closes to his man immediately, moves the puck swiftly. He's not a gambler at all though. Makes the safe play. Does tend to leave his feet and sprawl at times though. Bergman, who I barely had heard of (I certainly did not know the role he played in this series), is the prototypical defensive defenceman. Just plain solid. Makes his reads, reacts quickly. Active stick. Good decisionmaking. Never leaves his feet.

For the third straight game they are either even or in the black. Just as in game one their numbers are extraordinary.
Game 4. Scoring chances with Bergman on - 10-10 ES, 0-0 PP, 0-0 SH.
Park and Bergman are not as good as they have been but their numbers are either in the black or even.
Game 5. Scoring chances with Bergman on - 3-9 ES, 2-0 PP, 0-0 SH.
The carnage is widespread. The normally reliable Park and Bergman are bloodied.
Game 6. Scoring chances with Bergman on - 3-0 ES, 1-0 PP, 1-2 SH.
On the blueline all three pairs contribute but its a sign of the Canadian strength that the pair that he leaned on early in the Series, Park and Bergman, are now relied on a little less. They do get the five on three duty but its Savard and Lapointe who get the PK minutes in the third, including at the end of the game.

For all three pairs the game is fantastic really. Its a tribute to their work and that of the forwards as well that while the Russians spend plenty of time in the Canadian zone (Savard and Lapointe's Corsis are in the red, Bergman and Park barely in the black) they don't generate anything in the way of scoring chances. Bergman and Park are not on for one chance against at evens. The Soviets can't break down the Canadian defence and are left to lobbing pucks at Dryden from the perimeter (sometimes not a bad idea - the first goal is a long shot which I did not rate as a chance).
Game 7. Scoring chances with Bergman on - 1-1 ES, 0-0 PP, 0-1 SH.
The score is close in this game but almost across the board the Canadians own the Russians at even strength. Sinden basically runs out five man units although not exclusively. The Clarke line goes out with Savard and Lapointe and generally get the tough matchup. Ratelle goes out with Stapleton and White. Esposito with Park and Bergman
Game 8. Scoring chances with Bergman on - 11-2 ES, 0-0 PP, 0-3 SH.
On the back end Park and Bergman are excellent, only two SC against at ES, although one ends up in the net when Park blows his coverage on a draw. Still, an outstanding night.
Overall numbers for Bergman - 51 scoring chances for and 33 against at even strength. 8 for and 0 against on the power play, 1 for and 12 against while shorthanded.

Total Canada numbers - 171 scoring chances for and 125 against at even strength, 30 for and 6 against on the power play, 7 for and 27 against while shorthanded.

Overpass scouting report

I couldn't find much on Bergman's style of offense. But I watched him in the 1972 Summit Series. Here's what I saw of his play there, particularly his play with the puck.

Moves quickly and confidently with the puck, but isn't particularly creative. Makes the safe play with the puck when pressured, either up the boards or to his partner - he doesn't dangle forwards like his partner Park. He's a fast straight-ahead skater, and when he gets some space in front of him he doesn't hesitate to take that space and rush the puck. He also jumps up to join the rush as a fourth trailing skater when he has room - he doesn't hang back. Not a stay-at-home guy but not a creative offensive player.

Plays the power play sometimes. Nothing fancy - holds the point well, moves the puck quickly or throws it at the net. He played the power play less as the Series went on and Sinden figured out he had better options.

Last edited by overpass: 03-07-2011 at 01:05 PM.
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