The world of professional sports can be cruel. While it provides high-profile athletes with a life of excess and riches, it also sets up life expectations that cannot be met upon retirement. Similarly, it also gives them a sense of entitlement and invincibility in that they're above the law and able to do whatever they want. Unfortunately, we've seen all too often that isn't the case. Professional athletes, particularly those who played in the National Hockey League (NHL), have had their fair share of troubles with the law and substance abuse, among others. The high-stress level that comes with playing a competitive sport day in and day out can be both physically and mentally draining and some players handle that stress in dangerous ways.
Retirement can be especially tough on those athletes, particularly if they didn't manage their money properly while playing the game. Some players give up over a decade of their lives to play the game they love, but upon retirement find they have no career prospects and a horde of injuries that require prescription pain killers and other treatments. That's when their lives can really spiral out of control. It's tough to watch, but we've seen it time and time again, to the point where we could probably add a new name to this list every few months. But for now, here's 15 former players whose lives really got dark during and after they stopped playing hockey.
15 Slava Voynov
It didn't take retirement for Russian defenseman Slava Voynov's life to get dark in a way that few could have expected. He was fresh off of winning a Stanley Cup with the Los Angeles Kings - and was an integral part of the team - when news broke that he was involved in a domestic violence incident with his wife, for which he was later sentenced to 90 days in jail. He was also suspended by the league for the entire 2014 season. He hasn't returned since and was ruled ineligible to play in the World Cup.
Police said Voynov kicked and choked his wife, which sent her to the emergency room, but his wife later spoke about the incident, through her lawyer, and stated in was an "accident."
14 Ian White
Ian White defied all odds as an NHL defenseman. The Manitoba native was a sixth-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2002 NHL Draft and was listed a 5-foot-10, though that might be generous. It's not easy for an undersized defenseman to make it in the NHL, but White needed only two seasons in the American Hockey League (AHL), before becoming a fixture on the Maple Leafs blueline. He went on to play 503 career games between Toronto, Calgary, Carolina, Detroit, and San Jose, and recorded 179 points.
He last played for the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL in 2014-15 and played quite well, but was charged that season with numerous weapons-related offenses for having unauthorized firearms in his Manitoba home. It wasn't just the guns, however; the affidavit filed by a member of the National Weapons Enforcement Support Team noted White was "spiraling out of control," and suggested he was using a variety of drugs as cited by a police informant.
13 Jiri Hudler
The most recent addition to the list of players who have battled addiction and various other demons, Jiri Hudler made headlines earlier this month when it was revealed he was accused of making a scene on an airplane. Okay, that's putting it mildly. What actually happened, according to police, is that the Czech Republic winger threatened flight attendants, demanded cocaine (because of course they would have some), and attempted to urinate in a food cart.
12 Marek Svatos
Unfortunately, a lot of ex-athletes struggle with drug addiction upon retirement and that addiction often results in a loss of life via overdose. That's what happened to Mark Svatos, who tragically passed away at only 34 years old in 2016 after being found unresponsive with traces of morphine, codeine, and an anti-anxiety medication in his blood. He's not alone in his mixing of prescription and non-prescription drugs and hopefully the NHL - and other hockey leagues - can improve their treatment services for former players.
11 Mike Richards
Speaking of cocaine, we come to Mike Richards, who was arrested in 2015 in Las Vegas along with then-teammate Jarrett Stoll for being in possession of the drug as well as ecstasy. Richards, who had long had a history of partying during his time in Philadelphia - it was the reason both he and Jeff Carter were dealt from the team. He was later arrested at the Canadian border for again being in possession of illegal drugs. He retired shortly after and seems to have his life back on track, but it's hard to know for certain.
10 Bob Probert
Bob Probert was not only one of the toughest players to ever play the game, he was also one of the nicest. Ask anybody who ever played with him and they'll tell you about his incredible compassion, character, and generosity. However, like most fighters, he battled his fair share of personal demons, including drug and sex addiction. In his book Tough Guy: My Life on the Edge, he detailed his troubles throughout his career, most notably the instance in which he was stopped at the Canadian-American border while holding 14.3 grams of cocaine.
9 Kevin Stevens
Before there was Patrick Kane and even earlier Mike Modano, Kevin Stevens was one of the best American-born players in the NHL. The Massachusetts native was a sixth-round pick in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft, but developed into a star at Boston College and became an integral part of the Pittsburgh Penguins' back-to-back Stanley Cup-winning teams, in the early 90s he had 123 points in 1991-92 and 111 and 1992-93.
8 Clint Malarchuk
You might remember Clint Malarchuk best as the Buffalo Sabres goaltender who almost lost his life on the ice as a result of getting his neck clipped by a skate, causing him to nearly bleed out on the ice. He miraculously survived that scare, but not without facing a number of trials and tribulations throughout his life, most of which he detailed in his 2014 memoir The Crazy Game.
7 Rudy Poeschek
You're forgiven if you don't remember Rudy Poeschek, as he was a fighter who played 364 games and only scored six career goals. He was also drafted back in 1985 and retired from the sport in 2001 as a member of the International Hockey League's Houston Aeros. Like a lot of fighters, Poeschek battled his demons on and off the ice, especially in retirement.
6 Jarret Stoll
It seems like living life in LA not only got to Mike Richards, but it also got to Jarret Stoll who underwent a dark period during the later portion of his career. During the offseason in 2015, Stoll was arrested for counts of cocaine and ecstasy which were both found in his Las Vegas hotel room. He pleaded guilty to both counts.
5 Mike Ribiero
A former second-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens, Mike Ribeiro was a talented center who played over 1,074 games in the league and recorded 793 points and, as good as that is, it's easy to imagine he could have had an even better career if he limited his off-ice troubles. Ribeiro was famously accused of sexually assaulting his family's nanny in 2012 and, although he continued to play in the league after that, it was later revealed he battled with alcoholism.
4 Theoren Fleury
Like Riberio, Theoren Fleury's troubles have been well-documented throughout his career, although he has more than enough reason to have struggled with personal demons. As a teenager, Fleury was the victim of sexual predator Graham James, who was his junior coach. It wasn't until late in his career that Fleury and several others came forward and detailed what James did to them during disgusting acts. Sadly, James is now out on full parole after serving only two years of a seven-year sentence.
3 Patrick Cote
The Town, a popular film starring Ben Affleck, wasn't inspired by the life and actions of Patrick Cote, but it might as well have been. The movie features an ex-NHL prospect who ruins his career and becomes a big-time bank robber in Massachusetts. Like Affleck's character, Cote wasn't much of a player, as he played only 105 career games and scored only one goal, but, in his one full season as a member of the Nashville Predators, he recorded a team-leading 242 penalty minutes.
2 Chris Nilan
Chris "Knuckles" Nilan is perhaps the go-to player when referencing how drugs and alcohol can impact a player's post-retirement life, especially for fighters, which Nilan certainly was, hence the "Knuckles" nickname. The Boston native was best known for his time with the Bruins' rival Montreal Canadiens, where he consistently amassed over 250 penalty minutes in a season throughout his 13-year career.
1 Mike Danton
Speaking of heists, Mike Danton attempted to pull one off himself in 2004 while playing for the St. Louis Blues. In one of the crazier stories to spread through the NHL, Danton was arrested in a murder plot after being convicted of attempting to have his agent, David Frost, killed. At least that's what prosecutors alleged. Danton himself later said it was his own father he was attempting to have killed. It's a strange story that ultimately highlighted the sexual misconducts of Frost, who, like Graham James, was convicted of sexual exploitation of minors through his position as a coach and agent.
Danton served five years of a seven-year sentence in prison and was released in 2009. In a surprising twist, he returned to hockey, enrolling at St. Mary's University in Canada and later playing in Austria and Slovakia.
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