There are few times were one of the AGMs hits their stride after their junior career....but here we are. This week, the AGM in question really got noticed for his days in the minors while playing later in his career than his junior and early years in minor league hockey. This week, the career of Jean-Claude Bergeron.
Bergeron first came busting on the scene in the QMJHL with the Shawinigan Cataractes in the 1985-86 season as a back-up, going 13-16-1 in 33 games. The 1986-87 season saw Bergeron start off with Shawinigan for 11 games with a 5-4-1 record before he was dealt to the very defensively inept Verdun Jr. Canadiens, where he would take over the starting role. He would play 41 games with Verdun with an 11-28-1 record to end out the year. Back in Verdun for the 1987-88 season, where it wouldn't get much better with a 13-31-3 record in 49 games, giving up 265 goals behind that horrific defense. Yet, even with those numbers, the Montreal Canadiens would pick up Bergeron in the 5th round of the 1988 Draft. The worse of the Verdun years would be in the 1988-89 season, as Bergeron would play 44 games and record an abysmal 8-34-1 record.
There would be a reprive with Bergeron during that '88-'89 season, as he would move to the AHL's Sherbrooke Canadiens for five games and put up a 4-1-0 record. In his first pro season of 1989-90, Bergeron would see plenty of ice time; playing in 40 games while compiling a record of 21-8-7, while going 6-2 in nine playoff games. Bergeron would be named to the AHL's First All-Star Team and share the Hap Holmes Trophy with tandem partner Andre Racicot for least goals-against, in addition to his Baz Bastien Trophy win for Outstanding Goaltender of the year.
Bergeron would start out the 1990-91 season with the Montreal Canadiens on their French Tour, going 1-0-0 in two games, then would spend 18 games with Montreal, splitting between the beginning and ending of the season, going 7-6-2. During the middle of the year, he would head to Fredericton; the new home of the Habs AHL affiliate, playing 18 games with a 12-6-0 record, then going 5-5 in 10 playoff games. In 1991-92, Bergeron would start out with Fredericton and would play 18 games, but his 5-7-1 record would get him sent to the IHL's Peoria Rivermen, where he would play 27 games, finishing with a 14-9-3 record, while going 3-3 in six playoff games.
During the summer of 1992, Bergeron would be traded by Montreal to the expansion Tampa Bay Lightning for Frederic Chabot. That 1992-93 season would see play third string behind former AGMs Pat Jablonski and Wendell Young; but he would get 21 games in with a 8-10-1 record. With another goaltending acquisition, Bergeron would play most of the 1993-94 season with the IHL's Atlanta Knights, playing in 48 games with a stellar 27-11-3 record, then going 1-1 in two playoff games, as he would be a part of the Turner Cup champion team. Bergeron would share the James Norris Trophy with Mike Greenlay for fewest goals-against during the year. Bergeron would get three games of call-up in the '93-'94 season, going 1-1-1.
The 1994-95 season had Bergeron start off in Atlanta while the NHL lockout was going on, playing in six games with a 3-3-0 record. As the lockout ended, Bergeron was called-up to the Tampa Bay Lightning to get in 17 games of action during the shorten season with a 3-9-1 record. Bergeron would start off in Tampa in the 1995-96 season, but would only spend 12 games (2-6-2) before being sent down to Atlanta. With Atlanta, Bergeron would get in 25 games, but not fare as well as he did years prior, going 9-10-3.
Bergeron would sign with the Los Angeles Kings for the 1996-97, but would be sent to the IHL's Phoenix Roadrunners for the bulk of the season. With the Roadrunners, Bergeron would see 42 games in net, ending the year with an 11-19-2 record. Bergeron would see one game with the Kings, losing said game.
Bergeron would take a year off before resurfacing in the Quebec Semi-Pro League, playing for the Joliette Blizzard in the 1998-99 season, going 12-1-1 in 15 games, then going 9-2 in 11 playoff games, helping the Blizzard capture the QSPHL crown. Bergeron would return for 13 more games in the 1999-2000 season, going 8-5-0 before hanging up the pads for good.
Bergeron took his time and tenure in the NHL to the next level, becoming the Hockey Business Unit Director for Reebok Hockey; where he oversees the CCM line of goaltending equipment.
He has his championships and did have to deal with some not-so-great teams in front of him, but he seemed to keep coming back for more, regardless of the punishment he took. Even after taking a year off, he was able to come back and be successful, albeit in the semi-pro league. While he continues to deal with the pads....he's in a little bit safer confines and not facing as many shots as he did in his playing days.