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Worldstars coach Marc Bergevin chats with Tie Domi of the Toronto Maple Leafs during a practice on Dec. 7, 2004 in Toronto. (Paul Chiasson)
Worldstars coach Marc Bergevin chats with Tie Domi of the Toronto Maple Leafs during a practice on Dec. 7, 2004 in Toronto. (Paul Chiasson)

GLOBE ON HOCKEY

Who is Marc Bergevin? Add to ...

The Montreal Canadiens announced on Wednesday they have hired former NHL defenceman and Chicago Blackhawks assistant general manager Marc Bergevin as their new GM.

Here’s a closer look at who he is and what he brings to the table of one hockey’s most high profile jobs:

The person

Bergevin, 46, may just be the complete opposite of outgoing Habs GM Pierre Gauthier, as his reputation for years has been as the funniest man in hockey.

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There are dozens of stories about him playing pranks on teammates, coaches, trainers, hotel staff and flight attendants - among others - and he was often acquired by teams late in his career because of his personality and what he brought to the dressing room.

"He's the only one I've ever seen prank the GM," former teammate Craig Conroy once said to the Calgary Herald. "It was hilarious. (Former Blues GM Larry Pleau) had gotten a prank on Bergevin and he was going to get him back."

That gag involved an elaborate setup where Bergevin had a reporter write a fake story ripping the GM and had it slipped into Pleau’s package of morning reading material.

Blackhawks legend Denis Savard, who took Bergevin into his home as a rookie in Chicago when he knew little English, had a similar story.

“[You]go to the bathroom, and he fills your coat pockets with forks, knives, salt shakers,” Savard told Blackhawks historian Bob Verdi in an article last year. “Then he’d tell the restaurant owner ‘this guy next to me is stealing stuff.’ Thank goodness Bergie took it easy on me.”

(The Hockey news once did a six page article detailing all of his various exploits in the prank department, including a second equipment bag he carried full of props.)

Bergevin told the Chicago Tribune earlier this season that he’s toned down his act since moving into the executive office.

"Once in a while I'll crack a joke, but I stay away from that mostly," Bergevin said. "It's not a big part of my life anymore. In the office, I like to joke around with the people up there, trying to keep things loose. In that regard I haven't changed."

Bergevin grew up in the Pointe-Saint-Charles neighbourhood in Montreal, so taking the Habs job will be a homecoming. His father was a firefighter in the city for years.

He is married to a Chicago native (Ruth) and has two sons (Wes and Rhett) and a daughter (Elle).

The player

Bergevin retired in 2004 after 20 years in the NHL with eight different teams. Drafted in the third round by the Blackhawks at age 17 in 1983, he was an undersized stay-at-home defenceman known for playing a safe, physical style.

After winning two Calder Cups in the minors in Springfield, Bergevin’s best season production-wise was with the Hartford Whalers in 1991-92 when he had 24 points in 75 games.

His best overall campaign, however, was likely when he was plus-27 and played a top four role with the first-place St. Louis Blues in 1999-00.

Bergevin is ranked 97th all time with 1,191 NHL games played and late in his career had a reputation for being a fitness fanatic, which is how he played almost until his 39th birthday.

Internationally, he took part in the 1994 world championships in Italy when Canada won gold for the first time since 1961.

"When we had him before, he was such a good influence with young kids, and he's such a good character guy," former Pittsburgh Penguins GM Craig Patrick said of Bergevin during his second stint there in 2003. "But also he's a guy who helps relieve a lot of tensions in the dressing room and on the bench.” Some of Bergevin’s closest friends in the game are Mario Lemieux, Luc Robitaille, Joel Quenneville and Al MacInnis, so he keeps pretty well respected company.

The hockey exec

Bergevin was named a pro scout in September of 2005 with the Blackhawks a year after retiring and has been part of that organization ever since.

In 2007, he was moved up to director of pro scouting. In 2008, he became an assistant coach, and in 2009, he was promoted to director of player personnel.

That year Bergevin finally won the Stanley Cup for the first time.

“It meant so much to me,” he told Verdi. “As a child, I took off school to sit on my cousin’s shoulders for the parade in Montreal. A year after I left the Red Wings, they win the Cup in 1997. A year after I left the Tampa Bay Lightning, they win the Cup in 2004. That’s the year I retired, with Vancouver. Many of my friends, like Mario, won the Cup and invited me to parties. I never went. The year Anaheim won, in 2007, I was scouting for Chicago. Third period, I had to leave. I couldn’t watch. That’s why I was so emotional in Philadelphia. I was a mess.”

Suddenly Chicago’s executives were in demand elsewhere, and assistant GM Kevin Cheveldayoff was hired to be the Winnipeg Jets GM last summer. Bergevin took on that role as Stan Bowman’s right hand man in June and has earned praise from Scotty Bowman as having a keen eye for talent.

"He's got tons of connections," Stan Bowman told the Tribune recently. "He's the kind of guy on a team that people would gravitate toward. You play that out over a 20-year career, and he's got so many different connections he can draw upon."

“My strength is not numbers, salary cap stuff, but I will learn,” Bergevin said last summer shortly after being promoted to assistant GM. “I always tried to realize what I could do and what I couldn’t do.”

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