By Phil Stacey
---- — BOSTON — It was a pretty good trade off as far as Pete Frates was concerned.
On the third floor of the TD Garden last night after the Bruins had rallied to tie the New York Rangers in the final 91 seconds but ultimately lost in a shootout, 4-3, Frates and a dozen of his closest friends got a chance to have a meet-and-greet with Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron.
Frates, the Beverly native and former St. John’s Prep and Boston College baseball star who is battling Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) — better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease — presented Bergeron with one of his patented red ‘Frate Train’ T-shirts with the ALS ribbon on the front and a ‘Frates 3’ on the back.
In turn, Bergeron presented Frates with one of his authentic home Bruins sweaters, complete with Bergeron’s name and No. 37 on the back and personally signed to Pete.
“Pretty sweet,” said the 28-year-old Frates. “He’s a great guy.”
Frates and his friends and family were the guests of Bergeron’s for last night’s game, sitting in his luxury suite behind the goal where the Bruins shot at twice last night. Frates had perhaps the best seat among the 17,565 at the TD Garden last night when the Bruins came back from two goals down to tie the game on markers from Nathan Horton and Brad Marchand.
At each Bruins home game, Bergeron hosts patients from local hospitals and other children’s organizations as part of ‘Patrice’s Pals’, where they get a chance to not only watch a game from his suite, but meet him afterwards for autographs and photos.
According to Frates, Bergeron was first made aware of his situation while talking to Eric Tosi, the Assistant Director of Media Relations for the Bruins. Tosi (also a Beverly native) had taken part in a ‘Plunge For Pete’ ALS fundraiser at Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester at the end of December and was telling Bergeron about the experience. The Bruins center was intrigued and asked if he could meet Tosi, and the process was soon set into motion.
“Patrice told Eric he wanted to have Pete in for a game,” said John Frates, Pete’s father, said during the second period of last night’s game. “It’s a tremendous experience.
“Really, it’s been such an overwhelming amount of generosity that we as a family feel all the time. There have been so many of these magic moments and getting the chance to meet people like Bobby Orr and Ray Bourque ... they’re great, down-to-earth people who have really connected with Pete.”
Pete Frates brought his father, his younger brother Andrew and his brother-in-law, Dan Mayo, to last night’s game. He completed the “boys night out” with many of his long-time friends: J.T. McNeil, Dean Boylan, Dylan Cox, Colin Raposa, Tommy Haugh, Garrett Kantor, Mike Boudreau, Ryan Tracy and Jay Connolly.
Haugh, who played varsity baseball at St. John’s Prep with Frates and also went with him to play in Germany after college, said the bond he shares with him is ‘inseparable.’
“There’s nobody like Pete. I truly mean that,” said Haugh, who went on to graduate from Bentley University. “He takes this challenge not only as a way to help spread the message towards finding a cure for ALS, but to also stay true to himself and keep doing his thing and being himself. That’s why Pete is who he is.”
Having attended yesterday’s morning skate for both Boston and New York as well, Frates also had a chance to talk to one of his good friends from Boston College, Rangers center Brian Boyle, after the game.
Ironically, it was at the TD Garden that Frates played his last high school hockey game at St. John’s Prep. “State playoffs against Matignon,” Frates remembered last night. “They had a goalie (Seth McNary) who was a monster and we lost.”
Now, he said, he loves coming to Bruins games as much as anything else.
“Just a great time being here with the guys,” said Frates. “And for the Bruins to do this for me ... it’s just awesome.”