Playing in the National Hockey League is an amazing way to make a living. Not only does the NHL have the longest average career out of the "Big 4" North American sports at about 5.75 years thanks to its deep rosters and 31 teams, but players rake in at least $650,000 in each of those years. Once these often fruitful careers have run their course, be it due to injury, age, or lack of playing ability, players have to adjust to "normal" life. While there is a growing trend of going to an NCAA school to play hockey and get a degree before making the jump to the NHL, it is still lost common for players to begin their pro hockey careers with just a high school diploma in hand. Many recently retired NHLers have said that they went to the "school of hockey" growing up and were not prepared for the real world once hockey was no longer an option. While some NHLers are lucky enough to stick around in the front office of a team or land endorsement deals even after their playing days are over, there are many more stories of retirees ending up down in the dumps and in poor physical, mental, or legal condition. Listed below are five retired NHLers who have managed to land on their feet followed by ten more who were not so lucky. Happy reading!
18 Clint Malarchuk (Fell Apart)
Clint Malarchuk is a household name for hockey fans of the 1980s, despite not being a particularly stellar goaltender. In fact, Malarchuk posted pretty terrible numbers - a .877 save percentage and 3.47 goals against average - throughout his nine-year career. The reason Malarchuk is such a well known man is because he suffered one of the most gruesome injuries in sports history. The Albertan has his jugular vein and carotid artery cut with a skate, causing blood to shoot from his neck and form a large pool in his goal crease. Somehow, Malarchuk survived, but the injury haunted him for years.
In large part due to his near death experience, Malarchuk fell into a deep depression following his retirement in 1992. This condition, plus his failing marriage and OCD issues, all came to a head in 2008 when the former goalie attempted suicide by shooting himself in the chin. Luckily, Malarchuk survived and has gone to rehab for his alcoholism and depression. The story thankfully has a happy ending, as Clint wrote a best-selling book about his experiences and now tours with his wife Joan giving motivational speeches.
17 Kevin Stevens (Fell Apart)
Kevin Stevens was a large part of the star-studded Pittsburgh Penguins of the early 1990s. Stevens exploded for 123 and 111-point seasons in 1992 and 1993 and won two Stanley Cups for his efforts. He also had brief stints in New York, L.A., Boston, and Philadelphia before retiring in 2002 with 726 points in 874 games.
The Massachusetts native had trouble adjusting to post-hockey life, gaining weight and battling alcohol problems. He had already been associated with a few drug-related incidents during his playing career and even entered the NHL's substance abuse program as a result. Following his retirement, these problems continued, and the Penguins tried to help one of their own by hiring him as a scout in 2005. He was kept on the straight and narrow for a while but has recently had more trouble with the law, being charged with conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute oxycodone. Stevens' demons seem to have finally caught up with him.
16 Wayne Gretzky (Doing Well)
Wayne Gretzky is the undisputed best player in NHL history. Over 20 NHL seasons, "The Great One" compiled an outstanding 2,857 points in 1,487 games, putting him miles ahead of the next best point totals in league history. Gretzky also added four Stanley Cups, 15 All-Star appearances, and ten scoring titles to his resume before retiring as a member of the New York Rangers in 1999.
Since his playing days ended, "Gretz" has stayed involved with the league. He coached the then-Phoenix Coyotes for a short, unsuccessful run from 2005-2009. Between then and 2016, he acted as a league ambassador and had a number of endorsement deals. Recently, Gretzky has been named as an official NHL ambassador and was a large part of their NHL 100 unveiling. He also joined the Oilers in an advisory and business role alongside team owner Daryl Katz. Wayne has always been a consummate pro and will likely serve as a great league ambassador for a long, long time.
Yzerman transformed from the greatest leader of his day to the best GM in the NHL today.
15 Chris Nilan (Fell Apart)
Chris Nilan was an enforcer in every sense of the word. The type of player who wouldn't last a minute in today's NHL but fit in perfectly in the '80s and '90s, Nilan racked up a ridiculous 251 fights over his 13-year NHL career. Incredibly, he actually had more fights than points - totalling just 225 of those over his 688-game career.
Like many enforcers, Nilan suffered his share of concussions during his playing career and now that he is retired, deals with CTE-like symptoms such as memory loss, headaches, and depression. He admits to also being addicted to heroin and alcohol for a long period of time. The documentary "The Last Gladiators" features Nilan in an interesting-but-sad tale of what his life was like in the NHL, showing just why he may have been driven to the depths he hit in his post-playing days. Eventually, like Malarchuk, Nilan was able to get the help he needed and new acts as a motivational speaker and even has his own show on TSN.
14 Dale Purinton (Fell Apart)
Dale Purinton has anger issues. The former Rangers defenceman played just 181 games with the club over parts of five seasons recording a measly 20 points but an unbelievable 578 penalty minutes - an average of about 3.2 minutes per game spent in the box! In comparison, the NHL's second-place all-time PIM earner, Dale Hunter, averaged just over 2.5 minutes per game in the sin bin! Purinton was suspended THIRTEEN times over his nine-year pro career and finally retired from hockey in 2008.
He has coached in British Columbia's Junior B league for most of his post-playing days, and is known there for his hot temper and frequent toss-outs. In 2015, Purinton was charged for burglary and assault after he broke into a New York home and assaulted its owner. Dale Purinton just seems like a terrible guy.
13 Gary Roberts (Doing Well)
Gary Roberts was a fairly average second-line winger for the majority of his career. The Ontarian was able to tally 910 points over 1224 career games split between the Flames, Leafs, 'Canes, Panthers, Penguins, and Lightning. Respected as a leader and consistent producer, Roberts is probably contributing even more to the league now than he did as a player.
The now-51-year-old is a serious fitness guru, opening his own high performance training centre in 2011. He is a mentor and off-season trainer for such names as Steven Stamkos, Connor McDavid, James Neal, and Phil Kessel (when he decides to train). It is great to see a former player in such great physical shape and looking to help the next generation of NHL stars succeed as well.
12 Steve Durbano (Fell Apart)
When your nickname in the NHL is "mental case," you know your transition into the real world is going to be a tough one. After playing 220 NHL games split between the Penguins, Blues, Colorado Rockies, and Kansas City Scouts, Durbano retired in 1979. He had accumulated just 73 points but had recorded 1127 penalty minutes, good for an average of over five minutes per game, tops in NHL history!
As much of a troublemaker as Durbano was on the ice, he was just as good at finding problems off of it. Shortly after he retired, the Toronto native served seven years in prison for a cocaine smuggling incident. He then went back to jail on two more occasions for shoplifting and for soliciting a prostitute. After finally getting himself straightened out in 2002 - over twenty years after his retirement - he died of cancer while living alone in the Northwest Territories.
11 Derek Sanderson (Fell Apart)
Derek Sanderson became infamous for living the high life. Even before the Boston Bruin was making big money, he was living like it - buying a Rolls Royce and being a frequent partier. Sanderson signed a $2.6 million deal with the WHA's Philadelphia Blazers but knee injuries and alcohol issues led him to become somewhat of a journeyman, bouncing from team to team and from the NHL to the AHL. He was a solid statistical player, recording 452 points in 598 NHL games, but he just couldn't get his off-ice issues fixed.
After retiring, Sanderson continued to try to live the high life, marrying a Playboy model and opening a soon-to-fail nightclub. Very quickly, Sanderson was penniless and had terrible substance abuse problems. He ended up homeless and was on the brink of death thanks to his cocktails of alcohol and a plethora of pills. Thankfully, he was bailed out by former teammate Bobby Orr and got his life back together in rehab. He now gives financial advice to young athletes in hopes that they won't make the same mistakes he did.
10 Ken Dryden (Doing Well)
Ken Dryden could very well have been in the conversation for top 5 goaltenders of all time had his playing career not been so short. The lanky puck-stopper played just 397 games over seven NHL seasons, but still managed to rack up six Cup rings, five Vezinas, and a Calder while recording a stellar 2.24 career goals against average. Dryden started late, at the age of 23, because he insisted on getting through school first, and retired early, at just 31, because he wanted to start a career in politics.
That career has been a resounding success. Known as one of the smartest former NHLers of all time, Dryden has written a book, worked as a commentator, plied his trade as President of the Toronto Maple Leafs, given guest lectures at McGill University, and eventually settled into politics. He represented the Liberal party in York Centre and was even named to Cabinet as Minister of Social Development. Dryden ran for leadership of the Federal Liberal party in 2006 and, although he was a fan favourite, his campaign ran out of funding and dried up. The Ontarian is not very active currently but his post-retirement career has been outstanding.
9 Patrick Cote (Fell Apart)
Patrick Cote was yet another enforcer-type player who had major issues upon his retirement. The left winger managed just 105 games in the NHL, split between Dallas, Nashville, and Edmonton. He recorded a measly 3 points but did put up 377 penalty minutes! Cote left the NHL in 2001 after he couldn't find work.
Sometime during his playing career, Cote had been charged with armed assault, though it seemed to have been swept under the rug. Shortly after his retirement, though, he was at it again. The now-42-year-old was arrested and charged with conspiracy after 30 pounds of marijuana was found in his car. Then, in 2014, he robbed two banks in Montreal and was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. Based on his current trend, it seems as if Cote will just pull another boneheaded stunt once he is released from his current stint in lockup.
8 Mike McBain (Fell Apart)
Mike McBain was by no means a prominent NHLer, but his disgusting acts following his short career warrant his place on this list. The British Columbia native played just 64 NHL games, managing a laughable 7 assists. He last played in the NHL for Tampa Bay in 1999.
After retiring, McBain became an assistant coach with the ECHL's Las Vegas Wranglers. He used his position to help him commit a stomach-turning act - from 2008 until 2012, McBain committed multiple acts of sexual assault on a 14-year-old girl. After being confronted, the former defenceman fled and attempted suicide, but failed. He was charged with sexual assault and attempted lewdness with a minor under 14 and could serve up to 15 years in jail.
7 Bobby Orr (Doing Well)
Bobby Orr, like Dryden, could have been recognized for so much more had his career not been cut so short. Orr is still known as the best defenceman of all time, despite playing just 657 games over parts of 12 NHL seasons. Knee problems forced the dynamic D-man to retire at just 30 years of age, but Orr had already put up 915 points, won two Stanley Cups and eight Norris Trophies!
Since his premature retirement, Orr has stayed active in the league. The Ontarian takes part in events such as the NHL 100 and was part of a large group of former players who took down the notoriously shady Alan Eagleson. Orr has formed, with a couple business partners, the Orr Hockey Group, an agency which represent names such as Jeff Carter, Taylor Hall, Connor McDavid, and the Staal brothers, to name a few. Though Orr didn't play in an era where players made millions, he has certainly done so in his post-playing days.
6 Ian White (Fell Apart)
The most recent retiree on this list, Ian White played a respectable 503 NHL games with the Leafs, Flames, Hurricanes, Sharks, and Wings. As a solid 2nd-pair defenceman, White put up 179 points in his NHL career before leaving the league in 2013.
White's career came to an early end (he was just 28 at the time) and his lavish lifestyle could not longer be supported without the millions in income he was no longer receiving. White fell into a depression and soothed this with a variety of drugs. In fact, during his playing days, he had already been arrested twice for impaired driving, and this substance abuse has obviously gotten worse. In 2015, White was charged with seven weapons-related offences after police raided his cottage and found dozens of firearms. In a police statement, White was described as "spiralling out of control" and it has been reported that he often gets high on drugs and then walks around with a gun in a state of paranoia. White's abrupt dismissal from the NHL obviously took a toll on the now-troubled man.
5 Doug Harvey (Fell Apart)
Doug Harvey's story is one of the saddest in hockey history. The man went from being one of the best defensemen of all time to having next-to-nothing on his deathbed. Harvey played an outstanding 19 years in the NHL, lasting right up until his 44th birthday. He retired with six Stanley Cup rings and seven Norris Trophies to his name and has since been named to the Hockey Hall of Fame and the NHL 100 list.
Retiring with no previous education and already in his mid-40s, Harvey struggled financially and mentally. The Montreal native was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and also suffered from alcoholism. Though he did manage to pick up a few small assistant coaching gigs with the Habs and a number of minor league teams, Harvey had nothing and spent three years living in a railway car. He died at 65 due to liver issues brought on by his alcoholism with not a penny to his name and hardly any family by his side.
4 Steve Yzerman (Doing Well)
Stevie Y is well known for his incredible leadership and perseverance, serving as the captain of the Detroit Red Wings for twenty years and leading them to three Stanley Cups. Yzerman was just as prolific on the score sheet as he was in the dressing room, racking up 1755 points over his 1514-game Hall of Fame career.
Yzerman's leadership and keen hockey sense translated perfectly into a managerial role. Since his retirement, Yzerman has put together both the 2010 and 2014 Canadian gold-medal-winning Olympic squads. Most notably, though, he signed on as General Manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2010. Since then, he has transformed them into a perennial powerhouse through strong drafting and patience in free agency and the trade market.
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