OAKVILLE, ON — The Montreal Canadiens have one of the most storied histories in all of sports. From winning 24 Stanley Cups and sending endless players to the Hockey Hall Of Fame, it’s hard to not be considered the greatest team in hockey (except in 2011-2012, of course!). When you win games, you attract famous talent, including NASCAR driver Andrew Ranger.
For those of you who are not familiar with him, Andrew is a two time NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Champion, with 16 wins in 56 races since 2007. After a few seasons in the now defunct Champ Car series, Andrew moved over to the wonderful world of stock car racing, winning the championship in the inaugural Canadian Tire Series season in 2oo7. Since his succesful transition to full bodied NASCAR’s, Ranger has raced in the top levels in the NASCAR ladder, the Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup Series. Each year, you can find Andrew racing near the front of the pack at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in the heart of Montreal, where, in 2009, he raced hard with NASCAR champion Carl Edwards all the way to the final lap, where he pulled off a fantastic third place finish. While many Canadians spend time on the ice rink, Andrew spends time on the race track, and on many occasions, victory lane.
All Habs Exclusive Interview with Andrew Ranger
Steven Ellis: It’s always interesting to hear how Habs fans became interested in the Canadiens. Tell us a little bit about how you became a fan of the bleu, blanc, et rouge.
Andrew Ranger: It started with my grandfather, he was a really big fan for many years and the summer of 1994, my dad was racing in stock car on dirt and they had the Stanley cup at the track. We took pictures with it on my dad’s race car and at this point it was over, I had the ‘CH’ tattooed on my heart. A funny story, the cup came to the place where I live right now, so I guess it was meant to be! We’ve also had season tickets for something like 30 years. The Montreal Canadiens are part of me, as much as I feel I’m part of them.
SE: Many Canadian kids played hockey in their youth. Besides spending time at the race track, did you ever play hockey? If so, for how long and which position?
AR: I never played in a competitive league and I’m not a really good skater. But I always enjoy playing with my friend at school (with boots, no skates!).
SE: You recently set up a Twitter account. Have you had the chance to interact with other Habs fans?
AR: I had the chance to interact with the new member of the team, Colby Armstrong. It’s always interesting to exchange with someone you never saw before! Twitter is a great tool to reach out and express opinion. But what I like the most is having the opinions of the people out there. Not only about race or NASCAR but about everything from everywhere.
SE: What are your thoughts on the new guys Montreal brought in: Colby Armstrong, Brandon Prust and Francis Bouillon? Do you share my thoughts that the team needs to add another player to, well you know, put some pucks in the net?
AR: I’m really pleased with the new guys. I think the Habs are going the right way. We are getting bigger, but keeping our speed. We are also tough, which makes us ready for the real season (playoffs). I would love to see another player to put the puck in the net. But it will be interesting to see how our guys are going to do, because at the end of the day all we need is to score one more goal than the other team to win.
SE: One thing people don’t know about former Canadiens’ defenseman and current Player Development Coach Patrice Brisebois is that he is a part time NASCAR Canadian Tire Series competitor driving the number 71 Dodge at select races. Have you ever talked to him regarding hockey or the Canadiens?
AR: We talked often, he is a really nice guy. Most of the time we talked about racing more than hockey but once in a while we have to mention hockey, haha.
SE: Do you believe the NHL will head to a lockout, or start on time as the rest of the hockey world hopes?
AR: Thinking and hoping are two different things. I hope the season will start on time and we will go undefeated this season, but in reality I’m expecting something more like the NBA where the season was shorter. It’s a really sad moment for hockey right now. And the people most affected by it are the fans.
SE: What are your expectations for the Canadiens this season? Will they be playing hockey or golf come May 2013?
AR: To that question there is no doubt in my mind. All we need is to get to the playoffs and we have the team and personnel surrounding them also. Plus we have our secret weapon… the best fans in the world to lift them up! When you get to the tournament everything is possible. You can ask Crosby and Ovechkin what they think of Montreal, ranked eighth from the 2009-2010 season! Wow that was great!
SE: Besides hockey and obviously racing, do you follow any other sports?
AR: I watch a lot of Sports 30 on RDS and Sportscenter on TSN. I’m a winter sports guy. I love watching the winter Olympics. All the sports that don’t have judges, I really enjoy watching like Alpine skiing and the Ski cross, it’s a race on snow that’s insane!!
SE: With only a few races left in the season, you currently sit second behind DJ Kenningt NCATS point standings. What will it take for you to win your third championship?
AR: After the Barrie, Ontario race last week-end, we got a lucky break when DJ had trouble with his car. It’s a really tight championship. We will need to finish in front of the top guys like Kennington, Fitzpatrick and we can’t forget Stockley in both races to have a chance. We are 14 points behind and we will be racing hard to bring a third championship back home.
SE: Once you retire, which hopefully is a long time away, do you still plan on being involved with racing in some way?
AR: I would love to stay involved in the world of racing. Teaching could be something I would like to do. Maybe I could start by a group lesson to the Habs players!! Haha! Racing is my ultimate passion and I’m lucky enough to be able to earn a living of it. I’m blessed and I hope it keeps going like this for a long time!!
SE: Finally, if you could meet any Habs player, past or present, who would it be and why?
AR: There were so many great Habs players over the years. Brian Gionta has natural talent but he also brings the intensity, he’s aggressive in his game and has great leadership. He plays like I drive! Another player was Alex Kovalev. He was so spectacular and explosive. He did a lot for the community and I think that is important to give back to the people around you. It also helps that he was wearing 27!
I would like to thank Andrew, who is an All Habs reader, for taking time out of his busy racing schedule to talk about the Habs. You can interact with him on Twitter, like his Facebook page, and vote for him in NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver contest!
Follow me on Twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.