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Bryan Berard's 2008 Dodge Challenger
Bryan Berard's 2008 Dodge Challenger

Bryan Berard

Go figure, Bryan Berard likes muscle machines Add to ...

Name: Bryan Berard

Profession: Former NHL player; contestant on CBC’s Battle of the Blades

Age: 34

Hometown: Rhode Island

Notable achievements

- Played for the New York Islanders (1996-1999, 2007-2008), Toronto Maple Leafs (1998-2000), New York Rangers (2001-2002), Boston Bruins (2002-2003), Chicago Blackhawks (2003-2004) and Columbus Blue Jackets (2005-2007).

More related to this story

- On March 11, 2000, while playing for the Leafs in a game against the Ottawa Senators, he suffered a severe right eye injury when he was hit with a stick. After seven eye surgeries and a long recovery, he returned to the NHL to play seven more seasons finishing his career with 76 goals and 247 assists.

Upcoming:

Battle of the Blades on CBC. His partner is Marie-France Dubreuil and he’s skating for the Do It For Daron program at the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health. DIFD is named after former NHLer Luke Richardson’s teenage daughter Daron, who committed suicide.

*****

A devastating blow to Bryan Berard’s right eye with a stick back during a Leafs-Senators game in 2000 thrust him into hockey headlines. Despite the severe eye injury, he returned to the NHL following a long rehabilitation in which he missed an entire season.

And while his NHL career ended in 2008, Berard hasn’t hung up his skates.

Berard is competing in CBC’s Battle of The Blades. And while he’s a strong competitor on the ice, on the road his rides are equally as tough: a 2011 GMC Sierra Denali truck and a 2008 Dodge Challenger.

Why did you a choose a truck?

It’s the first time I’ve owned a pickup truck. My dad always talked about how he liked them.

It’s great. … It’s my everyday driving car. I live in Manhattan and if I head back to Boston I wanted something I can pile things in the back and I don’t have to worry about snow or anything. It’s a nice driving vehicle.

The best feature is the bed. I use the back for golf clubs, luggage, or whatever tailgate at Patriots’ games.

In the inside, too, it feels like you’re in a Yukon Denali or an Escalade. The inside is really nice. You don’t feel like you’re in a pickup truck, but you are.

Why did you buy the Challenger?

I’m a big muscle car fan.

My dad is big into cars as well. He was a mechanic and has rebuilt a few old cars. When it came out, my dad mentioned it to me and I was lucky enough to get it. They only made 4,500 the first year so I was able to get my hands on one.

It was an easy decision. From there we tweaked it a little – we put an exhaust system on it. So, she, I call her she, purrs like a kitten. She’s a nice car. She’s fast. She’s got the big Hemi in it – 6.1.

Did you do any of the tweaks yourself?

No. I wish I would have paid attention. My father owned a garage since I was born until I left for junior and I hated it. I hated to get my hands dirty.

My oldest brother and my youngest brother learned how to change oil and change the tires and brakes. Now, I wish I would have, especially with the older cars. It looks like a lot of fun. But I stayed out of the garage. I was interested in hockey and baseball.

What does a Dodge Challenger say about you?

I don’t know, to be honest. It’s a fun driving car. It’s fast. But I can only drive her an hour or two hours and then my back gets sore. It’s a fun car to go out in.

Does “she” have the speed and power of an NHL player?

Yeah, I guess. I love the way she sounds and the exhaust.

I’ve never been big into speed. I wouldn’t say I’m a fast driver, but I like to have fun sometimes.

Any speeding tickets?

Knock on wood, I haven’t had any in a couple of years now. I’ve been lucky.

I’ve been pulled over a few times, but I’ve been lucky talking my way out of it.

Are you a car guy?

I love cars. I have owned a lot of cars.

I try to buy cars every one or two years. Now that I’m retired I stopped that habit a bit. I like vehicles from trucks and SUVs to sports cars to Jeeps.

What was your first car?

The first car I bought when I turned pro was a Lexus SC400.

When I got my licence, I turned junior and had a Jeep Cherokee in Detroit. I had a few Cadillac Escalades. Then I went to big sedans. I had a S55 Mercedes. I had a Bentley GT when they first came out. That car was a machine. I had a Porsche 911 C4 convertible with a six-speed. It was fun for a little bit, but I got tired of it.

When I played in Columbus I had an Audi A8 W12. I ordered it and it took three months to get here from Germany. It was the same car from Transporter. It was awesome – that was a machine.

Why did you get rid of it?

My stupid self, I got bored of it and then as soon as I traded it in I regretted it.

I traded it in for a Maserati four-door Quattroporte – I absolutely hated that car. I got rid of it fast. I didn’t like the way it drove.

I lived in the city and I had a lot of problems with the roads. I blew probably four-five tires with it on potholes. It drove nice and really tight like a fast sports car. But going from the Audi W12 to that, I wasn’t impressed.

The Audi was my favourite car I ever owned. The Maserati was my least favourite.

Is there a custom car you’d want to add to your garage?

That’s my problem right now. I live in the city and I don’t have a garage.

I’d be happy with a 2,000-square-foot house with an eight-car garage. I’d go back into a muscle car to have fun – a ’67 GTO convertible. I like the big boats, too. The Cadillac convertibles. I like the old ’72 Broncos, too.

Are cars a good investment?

Not the ones I bought, that’s for sure.

The GT is probably the only car I didn’t take a beating on. I didn’t lose much money when I sold it. I was tired of it and it had low miles. You didn’t see too many of them then, but now they’re all over the place.

I think I’ll hold onto the Challenger. Being a first edition, I think that will be worth some money some day. I’ll keep it for 20 years down the road.

My dad got into the old custom cars where he was finding cars at an auction or car show and he would do everything custom. He did a ’55 Thunderbird.

If he were younger, he could really make some money on it. It’s trendy now.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Marie-France Dubreuil with skating partner Bryan Berard. They will perform on CBC's Battle of the Blades in 2011 Fall Season.

pgentile@globeandmail.com

Follow on Twitter: @PetrinaGentile

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