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Patrice Bergeron.Photo illustration The Globe and Mail. Source photo Bruce Bennett/Getty Images/Getty Images

It takes a special kind of athlete to crush the dreams of fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Vancouver Canucks and remain admired by those he has helped consign to misery. But when Patrice Bergeron announced last summer that he was retiring from professional hockey after 19 seasons in the NHL, fans from across the league had nothing but respect and admiration for a future Hall of Famer taking his leave.

Nowadays, Bergeron is focused on his new job, as what he calls, “the Uber driver for the family,” four kids under eight years old. This month, he’s also working as an ambassador for the Kraft Hockeyville initiative, through which the food giant gives $250,000 each year toward the restoration of a different community rink across the country. In 2019, the rink where Bergeron spent so many of his teenage years, Quebec City’s Aréna Jacques-Côté de Sillery, was demolished after falling into disrepair.

“The program exists to bring people and communities together, to help with repair and rebuild so that we can have accessibility for everyone, and to grow the game,” he said during a recent phone interview. “I’ve learned so much from hockey, and I definitely want as many Canadian kids as possible to go out and play the game that we love, and learn life lessons like I did.”


When and where were you happiest?

Skating outdoors, back in my hometown [L’Ancienne-Lorette], growing up, is probably my best memory of just pure happiness, where you don’t have anything on your mind. It’s just living in the present moment.

What is a favourite trait that you have?

Probably empathy. I feel like I can get close to other people’s emotion, and I try to reach out.

Does that ever get in the way when you’re going up against an opponent?

No, I think on the ice it comes differently. I think respect needs to be part of the game. But as far as competing and wanting to win, that never really got in the way.

What is a least favourite trait that you have?

I think probably being a perfectionist sometimes kind of gets in the way. If I do something, I want to do it perfectly, to a T, and my wife tells me, You’ve got to bend the rules sometimes, it doesn’t have to always be perfect.

If you weren’t a hockey player, what might you have done with your life?

My goal was to go to university and study business. As a kid I was dreaming I could have my own shop. I watched the film The Mighty Ducks, and I think it was the dad or one of the friends owns a hockey shop, and all the kids come in, they get equipment from him and kind of gear up. So I thought, Oh, that’d be awesome to have one of those shops. But even now, down the road I’d like to maybe take a few classes in business and learn that side of things, just to stay busy and learn new things.

I wondered if perhaps you’d considered following your mother into social work. As a leader in the dressing room, you seemed to have been a bit of a therapist, advising your teammates on how to channel their emotions.

It could have been cool, but that kind of came out later in my career. I’m really curious about the psychology of sport and all that. I think it’s so powerful and helpful for athletes. You know, I’m never going to complain about anything that we’ve experienced – it’s a dream come true, it’s a passion. But there’s also another side, where there is stress, there is anxiety that comes with it for a lot of guys. And to be able to talk and open up with them was very interesting, a lot of fun, and very helpful as well.

How many tattoos do you have now? And which one is your favourite?

I have five now, I think. They all have meaning, so I don’t know if I have a favourite, because some of them are about my family. So I guess all the tattoos about my family are probably my favourite.

Did you want to tell me about the last one you got?

I like to just keep those private. I know like, obviously, a tattoo – if we see each other face to face, you would see it. But I’ve always been pretty private with that stuff.

Do you have a favourite film?

Forrest Gump had a big, big impact on me.

What kind of music are you listening to these days?

I’ve always been a hip-hop kind of guy. I had a punk-rock phase and then, growing up, mixed in, like, EDM. So I’m really all over the map. But I was joking that I’m the Uber driver for the family now, with pick-ups and drop-offs. So, for the kids it’s between Imagine Dragons, Taylor Swift and a few others.

Speaking of being the Uber driver, what has been the biggest adjustment to retirement from hockey?

Probably being away from the team aspect. The bonding and the friendships. Being on a team for so long, being used to that, just kind of the exchanges that you have in the locker room, the laughs. That part has been an adjustment, and hard, and tough. I’ve spoken to a lot of ex-players and that’s always the No. 1 thing that comes out.

What’s your greatest extravagance?

Probably watches. I probably have five now.

Is there one in particular you like?

Yeah. The Rolex that was given to me by the team last year for my 1,000 points.

Is there a word or phrase that you overuse?

Probably “obviously.” In interviews, most hockey players start with, “Obviously …” I feel like the word is overused a little bit by all of us. So I’ll put myself in that boat.

Do you have a hobby?

I just picked up the guitar. I am not good at it. I’m a true beginner, but this is my new hobby now. With more time on my schedule, I had to find some hobbies of my own. Between that and taking some tennis lessons – I’ve never played tennis in my life – things that always were on my bucket list.

Do you aspire to play a particular piece?

Way down the road – like, waaay down the road – I would love to play, like, it’s a French song, Je l’aime à mourir – it’s like ‘I love you to death,’ basically, from Francis Cabrel. That’s a song that I sing to my kids for bedtime. It would be kind of cool to learn it.

What is your idea of joy?

Family, 100 per cent. Spending time with my wife and my kids and being there for them. Every Friday we do movie night with pizza night. So that’s a pretty good example of pure joy.

And now you have time for regular Friday night pizza nights.

Yeah, exactly.

What is your idea of misery?

Probably being alone. Not having anyone to care for.

Speaking of misery others’ misery, that is the Bruins beat the Canucks for the Stanley Cup in 2011, came from behind in 2013 to send the Leafs out of the playoffs, and had a long-running rivalry with the Canadiens. Whose tears are sweeter: Leafs fans’, Habs fans’, or Canucks fans’?

Oh, my God. It’s a toss-up. I don’t know if I can pick one. They’re all sweet – respectfully. Obviously, I have a lot of respect for all franchises and fan bases. But maybe Toronto, I guess, because of all the battles we’ve had over the years, and some pretty epic playoff series, and the comeback in ‘13.

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