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Off the track, Marc André Bergeron drives a 2005 Cadillac Escalade. (Petrina Gentile for The Globe and Mail)
Off the track, Marc André Bergeron drives a 2005 Cadillac Escalade. (Petrina Gentile for The Globe and Mail)

Marc-André Bergeron

Lightning fast hockey player has an even faster hobby Add to ...

Marc-André Bergeron

Profession: Defenceman on the Tampa Bay Lightning

Age: 30

Hometown: Trois-Rivières, Que.

Notable achievements

Played 422 career NHL games with the Lightning, Montreal Canadiens, Anaheim Ducks, New York Islanders, Edmonton Oilers and Minnesota Wild; accumulating 77 goals, 43 power-play goals and 202 points

More related to this story

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The Lightning starts the NHL season against the Carolina Hurricanes on Oct. 7

*****

He’s an aggressive NHL defenceman with a wicked slap shot. But for Tampa Bay Lightning’s Marc-André Bergeron, hockey doesn’t rule his world.

While he’s not going to hang up his skates any time soon he is pursuing another passion off the ice. On the road, Bergeron drives a 2005 Cadillac Escalade but also has a 2010 Mazda RX-8, which he bought for one purpose only – to race in the Castrol Canadian Touring Car Championship series.

How did you get into racing?

I have a family and I didn’t want to drive fast on the streets any more.

When we’re younger we all do it. So I started going to race weekends and then one day I was, like, I think I would like to try it a little more seriously.

I sold my sports car and I bought my own RX-8 last year. We started from scratch. I didn’t have a team or nothing. I was, like, I’ll buy the car and see how it goes. I bought a team and got some good people around me and here we go.

What’s your best finish?

I’ve been finishing in the Top 20 in most races – 16 to 18.

So many cars break down and that’s how I move up. It doesn’t really matter what position I finish. As long as I don’t finish last and I bring the car back and it’s ready to roll the next day, it’s a win for me. I’m just thrilled.

We did three races this summer and it’s a blast every time. I love it.

It’s unfortunate because we don’t have the engine to run up front. The car is pretty solid. We built it the same as when Sylvain Tremblay was racing in my category. But not the engines – the engines are way bigger in my category so it’s harder. It’s amazing and I’m loving it. It’s in the process of becoming something hopefully pretty nice.

Are you mechanically inclined – can you fix your RX-8?

I don’t fix anything. I leave it to my crew.

I got good people – young and passionate and they love to do racing. They don’t do it for money. If we’re not passionate we’re not going anywhere.

But racing is an expensive hobby – luckily you’re an NHL player who can afford it.

It’s not like I’ve got so much money I can pay everybody. It’s a lot and I’m not there, yet.

I think it’s important to get good people around you to make all of this possible. I’m not going to throw too much money into it now – my family comes first.

It’s not my priority right now. Hopefully I’ll be there one day, but for now I have to be careful of how I’m handling everything. I’ve got sponsors – my major sponsor is Canadian Tire. Obviously my hockey career helps me.

But it’s really about passion for me. At first, I was like, oh let’s have a race car and let’s race. But now, I’m almost like a general manager/president. I have to deal with people.

It’s good experience for me for my future. I’ve opened different doors for me that I probably wouldn’t open if I was just doing hockey.

Any mishaps on the track?

In Trois-Rivières, we had a race weekend. I had two races and on the race on Saturday there was a lot of people watching and I had an accident on the first lap.

I started 16 out of 30-something cars and one car spun out. I hit him and broke my radiator and the engine was overheating and I had to stop. That’s the first time I had to stop my car.

Aren’t you worried about totalling your car?

Yeah, I am. It’s my first year so most tracks I’ve never drove on.

So every time I go out on my first laps I’m like, oh my God! I went from 206 to 220.

I don’t want to go too fast too quickly. I have too much respect for the people who work on my car.

What do you drive off the track?

I have a 2005 Cadillac Escalade. I’ve got two kids so it’s perfect for a family.

It has a lot of room and it’s totally different than my RX-8. Every time I get a chance to sit in my car and race it, it’s amazing.

What does a Cadillac say about you?

That I’m a family guy. I love to take care of my family. I know my kids are comfortable and have a lot of room.

Between my hockey, going away and my family it’s a useful big family car.

What does the RX-8 says about you?

It’s my wild side. I wish it could go faster.

I don’t have the engine I need in there. It’s so frustrating.

I’m working so hard all around the track to keep up with the guys. I need a little more metal. It’s my first year – it’s harder. I’m really focused. When I do something, I like to do it right. We’re in the process of doing everything right.

What was your first car?

It was a Ford Probe. I had a lot of problems with it.

I was a junior and I didn’t have a lot of money. It was always broken and I had to bring it to the garage all the time. I don’t know why I bought that – it was a big mistake.

Any speeding tickets?

It's been a while. When I was playing in Montreal, the Montreal cops pulled me over. It happened once or twice, but I'm careful with this truck.

I'm letting it all out with my RX-8 and I try to be as careful as I can when I'm driving my truck.

When you were drafted in the NHL – what car did you buy?

I bought a BMW M5. It was a beautiful car and I loved it.

Maybe one day I’ll get a new one, but like I said I want to let that side go.

I want to have a safe car for my family. My family comes first.

If I could bring you the keys to any car what would it be?

Sylvain Tremblay’s SpeedSource No. 7 – I want that one.

Marc-Andre Bergeron and his Mazda RX-8 race car

The interview has been edited and condensed.

pgentile@globeandmail.com

Follow on Twitter: @PetrinaGentile

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