Trois-Rivieres is a proud French sports city. Situated along the St. Lawrence River and midway between Montreal and Quebec City, it has been the birthplace of a number of NHL talents, from Montreal Canadiens legend Jean Beliveau and former Buffalo Sabres star Rene Robert on down through lunchpail journeymen such as Steve Begin and Marc Bureau.
But few players who have come through Trois-Rivieres have as much local fanfare as former Montreal Canadiens defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron, who was raised in the city before embarking on a 10-season NHL career that spanned seven teams. Though he didn't spend much time on the top pairing in his career, he was revered for his ability to run a power play and pile up points. However, as he exited the NHL and wound down his playing days in Europe, Bergeron began thinking about his future. A self-described "business-minded person," he wanted to make sure he stayed in sports. That led to a meeting with Louis-Phillipe and Jean-François Dumoulin, two of the top drivers in the NASCAR Pinty's Series, whom Bergeron was introduced to in 2009 through his agent, Paul Corbeil. Bergeron was always a car guy, and with the brothers being beloved sons in Trois-Rivieres, the trio clicked instantly and it wasn't long before a working relationship was formed. But the connection goes even farther than that: Bergeron's father, Andre, used to deliver parts to Richard Dumoulin back when he raced decades ago.
"When Marc-Andre was still playing...he was cheering for me in racing, I was cheering for him on the hockey side," L.P. Dumoulin said. "So, we all kinda were connecting well with our passion for cars and racing and my passion for hockey, as well. Marc-Andre used to say, 'Let's go, let's go guys, let's do this thing.' And then (the partnership) happened."
Today, as a part-owner of Dumoulin Competition, Bergeron is involved in finding investors and reaching out to partners to help power the team, while also serving as the primary owner of the No. 47 Weathertech Canada/Bellemare/Eibach Dodge driven by L.P. – the same number Bergeron used in the NHL. Driving Bergeron's car, L.P. won the 2014 and 2018 NASCAR Pinty's championships, and also took the checkered flag at the 2019 Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres, a special win for both driver and owner.
Bergeron's other ventures prevent him from attending all the Pinty's Series races, but Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres – also know as GP3R – is one he never misses. It's his home race and one that puts the city under the global spotlight. For two weeks, a portion of the downtown core is transformed into the famed track, and the night before the annual race, the city puts on a major fireworks display that lasts nearly 30 minutes. The 2019 show celebrated 50 years of racing at the track. With upwards of 50,000 fans attending the race this past weekend, L.P. pulled off his second GP3R victory but first in which J.F. joined him on the podium.
Despite his passion for racing – he has taken part in events such as the Nissan Micra Cup and Canadian Touring Car Championship previously – Bergeron is happier to watch from the sidelines, cheering on the Dumoulin brothers while focusing on the business side. "As much as I loved it, it was just not enough fun, I guess, for the amount of time that you have to put into it," he said. "If I ever do it again, it'll be in different conditions, though. It'll probably be, bring my helmet and sit in the car and drive it and once it's done it's like, 'Alright, ciao, guys. See you next weekend.' I would go with the easy way."
And that would free up more time for Bergeron to focus on his work with the Trois-Rivieres Aigles baseball team. In 2014, months before L.P. won his first NASCAR championship in Bergeron's No. 47 car, the former big-league defender, who still skates in Canadiens alumni games, became the second president of the Aigles and hoisted the Can-Am League title in 2015 as part of the club's front office. The GP3R track surrounds the team's stadium, keeping Bergeron's two loves close by.
"I bought (the Aigles) seven years ago because I wanted to, once I was done playing hockey, to be in business and that was the plan," Bergeron said. "I'm loving it. I'm happy that I did it."
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