You might think the life of a pro hockey player is all fun and games. Who wouldn't want to get paid millions of dollars to play a sport they love? However, there a bunch of negative drawbacks to being an NHL player. Some NHL players might only play ten minutes a night, but in that brief time, their bodies take a great deal of punishment. It may not seem like a big deal at first, but all those small injuries add up over time. The role of the enforcer is slowly dying out in the NHL today, which is a great thing. Players in the past were pretty much paid just to throw and take punches to the face. All those blows to the head have changed players lives for the worst.
Besides the physical toll the game of hockey takes on your body, it takes a toll on you mentally as well. This is especially true when a player decides to hang up their skates. Once players retire, they feel lost in the world, as playing hockey is all that they know. The feeling of going out there and competing against the best players in the world is something that just can't be replaced. Retired players often resort to drugs to try and replace the high they got from playing in the NHL. This eventually causes their life to spiral out of control, and it a reason why many players made it on this list.
Here are 15 former NHL players whose lives fell apart after they retired.
15 Doug Harvey
Doug Harvey is considered by some to be the greatest defenseman to ever play the game. He played the majority of his career with the Montreal Canadiens where he won six Stanley Cups, including five straight from 1956 to 1960. He was also named the league's best defenseman on seven different occasions.
Harvey finished his career with the St.Louis Blues in 1969. While Harvey was a legend on the ice, led a very troubled life off of it. After retiring, he had very little money and no education to get a good paying job. He would battle with alcohol and mental issues throughout the remainder of his life. He actually lived in a train car for the last part of his life. He quietly passed away in 1985 at the age of 65 from liver failure.
14 Marek Svatos
Marek Svatos' professional hockey career got off to a bit of rough start as he suffered a major shoulder injury in his very first season. He was able to put his disappointing first season behind him and had a tremendous rookie NHL season with the Colorado Avalanche. In 61 games, Svatos was tied for the team lead with 32 goals. He would continue to play with Colorado for four more seasons where he was a solid player, but he couldn't stay healthy for the life of him.
Svatos would have cups of coffee with the Nashville Predators and Ottawa Senators before going to the KHL in 2012. Svatos' became kind of a forgotten man until the news broke out that he had shockingly passed away in November of 2016. Svatos had died of a drug overdose after battling a heroin addiction and severe depression.
13 Dan LaCouture
Dan LaCouture was a standout player in high school. In his senior year while playing for the Natick Redmen, he recorded an incredible 101 points in just 21 games played. Unfortunately for LaCouture, he would end up spending more time in the penalty box than on the scoresheet during his NHL career. He finished his NHL career with 337 games played and 348 penalty minutes.
LaCouture suffered a bad concussion in 2004 and it ultimately led him down a dark path in life. He became addicted to painkillers. When that was enough he started mixing them with alcohol, and he was shocked he even would wake up the next morning. His drug addiction would eventually cause him to lose his marriage and his kids. In 2015, he was arrested for assault and vandalism. While LaCouture is now one year sober from taking painkillers, he still a very angry and depressed man.
12 Chris Nilan
After being taken in the 19th round by Montreal in the 1978 draft, Chris Nilan was considered a long shot to ever make it to the NHL. Nilan defied the odds and would play parts of 14 seasons in the NHL. He was mostly used as an enforcer, although there were a few seasons where he showed some goal scoring ability. Nilan spent the majority of his career with the Montreal Canadiens, winning a Stanley Cup with them in 1986.
After retiring in 1992, Nilan did not know what to do with his life. In 1999, he had to have major shoulder surgery. He was prescribed with strong painkillers for the pain. It came to a point where the pain medication wasn't enough, and he started doing heroin. In 2008, he almost died in a car accident after he drove while he was in the middle of withdrawal. Although he is now sober, he is still living with the consequences of his former life, most notable the breakup of his 25-year marriage.
11 Mike Peluso
It may be hard to believe that Mike Peluso (Pictured Left), who was one of the NHL's most notorious enforcers of the 1990s, was actually a gifted offensive defenseman prior to beginning his NHL career. While playing for the University of Alaska-Anchorage, he set team records for points by a defenseman. He joined the NHL in 1989, and he often found himself on the scoresheet, except now it was in the penalty department. Peluso would finish his NHL career with an insane 1951 penalty minutes in just 458 games, which included a league-high 408 penalty minutes during the 1991-92 season.
The punishment that Peluso took throughout his career has clearly taken its toll on him. Since retiring in 1998, he had eight grand mal seizures. His life got to such low of a point that he was seriously considering ending his life. Peluso is among over a 100 former NHL players who are now suing the league, stating they had always put profits ahead of player safety.
10 Rudy Poeschek
Rudy Poeschek had a lot of people to pass up on the New York Rangers depth chart after being taking in 12th round of the 1985 draft. Poeschek defied the odds by playing with the Rangers in his very first pro season in 1987-88. It was until the 1992-93 season when he joined the Tampa Bay Lightning, that he became a full-time NHL player. He played four seasons for the Lightning as their primary enforcer.
Poeschek had to hang up his skates in 2001 due to back problems. He used painkillers for his back pain, but it wasn't too long before he became addicted to them. He would be arrested eight times from 2002 to 2005, mostly due to driving under influence. In 2015, he was once again arrested, this time for assaulting a woman. Poeschek currently suffers from extreme memory and hearing loss. To make matters worse for him is the fact that he also lost all his NHL earnings due making bad choices in the stock market.
9 Brian Spencer
Brian Spencer's (Pictured Left) life was an interesting one, to say the least. Brian's father Roy, did whatever he could in order for his son to make it to the NHL. That day finally came when Brian was called up by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1970 and played in his first ever NHL game. The game was supposed to televised, but for some reason the television station switched to another game instead. Brian's dad was so angry that he drove 85 miles to the television station and forced them at gunpoint to switch the games. This incident would eventually lead to a police shootout in which Roy Spencer was killed.
While Brian Spencer would go on to play over 500 NHL games in his career, he would never get over the death of his father. After retiring from hockey in 1980, his life became complete chaos. His life became consumed with drugs and violence. He hit rock bottom in 1987 when he was charged with murder and faced the death penalty. While he would eventually be found not guilty, just a few months after the verdict, Spencer was killed while he was being robbed.
8 Clint Malarchuk
Clint Malarchuk played 338 games during his NHL career, but he will always be remembered for the gruesome injury that almost ended his life. On March 22, 1989, Malarchuk was tending goal for the Buffalo Sabres when an opposing player's skate slashed his throat. It was a horrific scene as blood immediately started to pool on the ice, but thankfully for the medical staff Malarchuk not only survived, but was back playing just two weeks later.
While on the outside it looked like the near death experience had little effect on Malarchuk, it was actually tearing him apart inside. In reality, he was in the deep depression and anxiety was taking over his life. While medication helped in the beginning, he eventually became immune to the pills and started mixing in alcohol. Things hit rock bottom for Malarchuk when in 2008 he attempted to commit suicide by shooting himself. He ended being badly hurt, but he survived. Malarchuk has left the game hockey, and now devotes his time advocating for mental health awareness.
7 Kevin Stevens
Kevin Stevens had a pretty solid career, but it could have better had he not made so many bad life decisions. In 874 career NHL games, he recorded a more than respectable 726 points. The best years of his career were when he played for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the early to mid-1990s. It was with the Penguins where he got a chance to play on a line with Mario Lemieux, and he was able to have back to back 100-plus point seasons. In 2000, Stevens was arrested for possession of cocaine and his career never recovered after that. After going to rehab, he tried to make a comeback, but it was clear that he wasn't the same player anymore.
After retiring in 2002, Stevens took a scouting job with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Besides a noticeable weight gain, things seemed to be going fine for Stevens in recent years. However, in 2016 it was clear that he had not yet got over his drug problems. Not only was Stevens sill using drugs, he was trying to sell them too. Stevens was arrested and charged with possession and intent to distribute oxycodone, a powerful painkiller. Stevens' former NHL teammates have recently spoken out about how they've never been more worried about his current health and mental state.
6 Steve Durbano
Steve Durbano was a punishing defenseman, who was rightfully given the nickname of "Mental Case." Durbano spent parts of eight seasons in the NHL and found himself suspended multiple times due to his undisciplined play. He managed to rack up 1127 penalty minutes in just 220 games, which is an NHL record when its comes penalty minutes per game average. His best NHL season came during 1973-74 when he recorded 27 points. His offensive game went out the window after that in favor of throwing punches.
After he ending his playing career in 1979, Durbano continued to be a loose cannon off the ice. In 1983, he was sentenced to seven years in prison after being part of a scheme that involved importing half a million dollars worth of cocaine into Canada. He was arrested again shortly after getting out of jail, this time for trying to start a prostitution ring. Durbano died in 2002, due to liver failure.
5 Dale Purinton
Dale Purinton was a beast of a man, at 6'3" 225 lbs, and he put his massive size to good use as an enforcer in the NHL. He was drafted by the New York Rangers in 1995 and he would stay with the organization until the 2006-07 season. In 181 games with the Rangers, Purinton managed to score just four goals but he did rack up an incredible 578 career penalty minutes.
Purinton spent the last few years of his career in the minors before retiring in 2008. Since leaving the game, Purinton says he suffers from nonstop headaches, which he blames on the at least ten concussions he suffered during his career. His life hit rock bottom in 2015 when he was arrested for assault and burglary. He was sentenced to four months in a maximum security prison. Purinton was able to get his life back by entering rehab for substance abuse which was sponsored by the NHLPA.
4 Patrick Cote
Patrick Cote was drafted by the Dallas Stars with 37th overall pick in the 1995 NHL Draft, but ended up being a gigantic bust. He played just 105 games during his NHL career where he was nothing more than a goon. His claim to fame was playing for the Nashville Predators during their inaugural season in 1998-99. Cote last played in the NHL during the 2000-01 season with Edmonton, before finishing off his career in the LNAH, a league known for its violence.
Cote's first trouble with the law actually occurred during his playing career in 2002. He was caught in New York with 30 lbs of marijuana in his car. That incident pales in comparison to what he did next. In 2014, he received a two-year prison sentence for robbing two banks in Montreal. To make matters worse for Cote, prison guards were forced to shoot him after he was trying to strangle another prisoner.
3 Stephen Peat
Stephen Peat was originally taken by the Anaheim Ducks in the second round of the 1998 draft. His draft selection was pretty high considering the most points he recorded in a junior season was 18. Before he even made his NHL debut, he was traded to Washington. He spent parts of four seasons with the Capitals where he found himself mostly in the penalty box.
After retiring in 2007, Peat almost immediately starting getting into trouble with the law. His legal trouble included bar and street fights, theft, obstructing a peace officer, and he even got in trouble for being a getaway driver. However, all that pales in comparison to what he did in March of 2015. Peat was charged with arson after he lit his own house on fire. He stated that he wish he had burned along with the house. After his latest arrest, Peat went back to rehab as he admitted that he is still struggling with drug and alcohol abuse.
2 Derek Sanderson
Derek Sanderson is known for his time playing with the Boston Bruins, where he was one of the best two-way players in the game. However, his acts off the ice hampered him from ever living up to his true potential. After leaving the Bruins in 1974, his life really started to go downhill. He would join the New York Rangers, and would often spend his nights out on the dangerous streets of New York City.
His career was finished in 1978, as his drug and alcohol problems had become way out of control. Sanderson wasted away all his NHL earnings by spending it like it grew on trees. It came to a point where he was living on the streets and stealing booze from homeless people. Today, Sanderson is sober, but when he looks at his past he has nothing but regrets.
1 Ian White
Ian White was an offensively gifted defenseman who was best known for his time spent with the Toronto Maple Leafs. After being taken by the Leafs in the sixth round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, he would make his debut with the team in 2005-06. White would go on to play four full seasons with the Leafs and would score at least twenty points in each season. In, 2010 White was traded to Calgary in the deal that brought Dion Phaneuf to Toronto. White would also have stints with the San Jose Sharks and the Detroit Red Wings but he was never able to match the success he had in Toronto.
After spending the 2014-15 season in the minors, White decided to retire at just the age of 31. It was just a few months after retiring in November of 2015, that White was arrested and charged with a number of weapons-related offenses. Following his arrest, police documents revealed that that White had become addicted to drugs, his marriage was falling apart, and he could no longer afford to live in his house. The document also stated that White was "spiraling" out of control" and he was so paranoid that he was now keeping a handgun with him at all times. Fortunately, White did not have to serve any prison time and has since entered rehab.
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