Profession: Former NHL player and entrepreneur
Hometown: Kelvington, Sask.
- Played in the NHL from 1985 to 2000, in a total of 888 games, scoring 367 goals and adding 266 assists; played the bulk of his 15 NHL seasons with Toronto Maple Leafs
- Community ambassador for Toronto Maple Leafs
- Owns two restaurants, Wendel Clark’s Classic Grill and Sports Lounge, in Burlington and Vaughan, Ont.; opened his first Meineke Car Care Centre in Vaughan in July
During his storied hockey career, Wendel Clark played for six NHL teams – including the New York Islanders, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Tampa Bay Lightning and Quebec Nordiques. But he’ll always be best known for bleeding blue and white with the Toronto Maple Leafs. In 2000, the former Leafs captain and powerhouse called it quits, hanging up his skates at 33. Today, the entrepreneur owns two restaurants and he just entered the car business, opening up his first Meineke Car Care Centre.
To get to work, he drives a vehicle that’s tough as nails, just like the former left wing. Clark often drives a top-of-the-line 2013 Ford F-150 Lariat pickup truck, and sometimes takes his wife’s Ford Expedition SUV.
Why do you buy big Fords?
My wife drives an Expedition Max – the extended version – to haul the kids.
I drive trucks in general. I very much liked the Ford truck. I think it’s a great vehicle. I like the direction that the vehicles are going – trucks are like cars now. They have all the bells and whistles – they drive like cars now. It’s very good. I like sitting up in traffic and driving a truck. It’s great in winter driving with the four-wheel drive. Probably the big thing is sitting up in traffic.
What does an F-150 say about you?
I don’t know. I grew up a farmer driving trucks and I just think it’s very usable compared to the old days. I know more and more friends – even bankers and lawyers – who drive trucks now.
You just opened your first Meineke Car Care Centre – are you mechanically inclined? Can you fix things on your truck?
Minor, minor stuff. The newer the cars are, the worse it is for me.
Growing up on the farm we did a lot of our own oil changes and stuff like that. As kids we’d do it and make mistakes and learn from that. But now it’s different. Everything is electronic.
Do you notice the fuel savings from the EcoBoost engine?
I don’t look at it so closely – I do a lot of highway driving and city driving, but I’ve never really monitored it.
What was your first car?
The very first vehicle I ever bought was a Monte Carlo SS in 1986 after my first year in the NHL. That was my first purchase. It was around $24,000, I think. I always liked the Monte Carlo SS and the Grand National – basically bigger sports cars.
The Monte Carlo SS was special probably because it was the first car I bought. When it’s your first choice and you’re finally making your own money, it means more.
I actually picked it up at the end of my first year in the NHL and then I drove it back to Saskatchewan and it was my first summer with it. I had it for three years and then my younger brother had it. He played in Phoenix with it and it got stolen. It was stolen and they found it in Mexico. They got it back again. When you’re living in the Phoenix area usually a lot of stuff goes south, but I couldn’t believe they actually found it. The car was around for a while after that. My parents used to drive it when I wasn’t. We drove it to the ground. It lasted a long time.
What vehicles came after that?
A short-box step-side Chevy truck. I had a ’69 Corvette at one time. I had a gold Shelby Cobra replica. That was near the end of my career. I started getting traded a lot and I had no place to store them so, if I wasn’t driving it, I didn’t have it. I was into trucks after that.
The Shelby was nice, but I don’t get that attached to any vehicles. They’re all just vehicles.
You’ve owned a lot of North American vehicles – is that a conscious decision?
Yup, pretty much North American vehicles. But it’s not a conscious decision.
I think I like them because the vehicles have come a long way. I think they’re all well-built and even your ongoing maintenance on them are more economical than the European ones.
Do you prefer driving a stick or an automatic?
I prefer a stick, except in today’s traffic in Toronto. If you’re in a sports car, yeah, a stick, if it’s not your everyday drive.
Of all the roads you’ve travelled during your NHL days, what’s your favourite?
Probably the best road is going north, when you’re going to the cottage. You know it’s cottage time whenever you get within an hour of going north and you get up into cottage country, your mindset goes to the right spot.
What’s your best and worst driving story?
I don’t have one. My best – well, I’ve driven everywhere. My worst I’ve been in fender benders my whole life, especially in the early days. I haven’t had any major accidents, though.
Were you the cause of the fender benders?
Could be either/or in the early days.
Any speeding tickets?
Now and again, yeah. You’re going a little too fast.
Do the cops let you off?
Depends on what country you’re in if they let you off.
How long do you normally keep your vehicles?
My trucks are usually turned over pretty quickly – probably every three to five years.
If I could bring you the keys to any vehicle what would it be?
I’ve never been into Lamborghinis or Ferraris – I don’t think I can get in them. My kids all like those kinds of cars. But I’d take any of the North American muscle cars. I really like the vintage cars. When I had them, I didn’t buy perfect collectors. It was usually something I would be driving.
I just didn’t want to look at it – I wanted to be able to drive it.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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