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.
He denied the allegation in a statement to Blesk magazine, but that's likely because he was probably unable to remember it. Given those allegations, it now seems even more odd that he showed up to the NHL Awards a few years ago in his bare feet. There haven't been any updates since the October 4th incident, but hopefully Hudler is getting the help he needs.
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.
A native of Slovakia, Svatos played 344 games in the NHL from 2003 to 2011, primarily with the Colorado Avalanche. He had his best season as a rookie, when he scored a career-high 32 goals and finished the year with 50 points.
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.
As a player, Richards was dominant in his first few seasons in the league, scoring over a point-per-game in his third and fourth season, but his numbers steadily dropped off, which could be due in part to his drug use and lack of on-ice motivation.
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.
News of that story was reported back in 1989, but in the book, Probert talks about it in detail, adding that he went to flush it in the toilet, but immediately figured he might as well snort it instead. So he grabbed the bag out of the toilet and did so. He had apparently turned his life around and was living clean, but died of a heart attack in 2010, just before the release of his book.
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.
However, since retiring in 2002, Stevens' life has been in a downward spiral thanks to an addiction to painkillers. He wasn't just taking them either; he was selling them. He was recently found guilty of distributing oxycodone in New England, but avoided jail time thanks to letters of recommendation from former teammates Mario Lemieux and Bryan Trottier. He has been sober for nearly a year, but suffers from constant pain due to injuries during his career as well as a near-fatal car accident four years ago.
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.
In it, Malarchuk details his battle with mental illness and his failed suicide attempt in 2008. He was diagnosed with PTSD from his near-death neck injury while in Buffalo and, in an effort to escape his personal demons, shot himself in the head, but miraculously survived. He's now sharing his story in the hope of removing the stigma of mental illness: "I want to let people know they’re not alone in their situations. I've had ups and downs, and today I’m alive and happy... the book is very open and raw, and it's that way for a reason. If I can be that honest, then maybe people can look at it the right way and be honest too."
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.
He has battled drug addiction and, upon retiring, has been arrested nearly a dozen times, including eight times while living in Florida during a four-year period. They were mostly all minor charges, but he has continued to find himself in trouble while living in Kamloops, BC. Earlier this summer he failed to appear in court and blamed it on his failing memory, which could actually be the case as he is one of a number of players suing the NHL in a CTE case.
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.
Shortly after, his game also subsided and quietly, Stoll ended up leaving the league. However, this story does have a happy ending as although he isn’t in the league any longer, he’s doing just fine as he recently married star sports broadcaster Erin Andrews. He’s also working as an analyst for the LA Kings, so in truth, he’s done well since the dark situation took place.
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.
In fact, in August of this year, his agent expressed concern for his well-being in an interview with a Montreal publication: "Nobody really knows what he's doing these days. The problem is that Mike thinks he's not sick. In his head, everything is beautiful. He eventually left the rehab program offered by the NHL last winter. We worry a lot, but we can't do anything... His wife has seen him — briefly — and then he disappeared into the woodwork. We're trying to get a hold of him. He doesn't answer his phone. Nobody hears from him. I don't think he's hit rock bottom."
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.
Fleury, meanwhile, is seemingly doing well these days - he has a country music career and released his memoir - but he struggled mightily with alcohol addiction throughout his career. He's now using his platform to help others from becoming the victim he once was.
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.
In 2014, six years after his playing career had officially ended, Cote admitted to committing the armed robbery of a pair of Montreal banks and was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison. No word on how much he scored in the heists, but it had to be more than he did on the ice.
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.
However, upon retirement, he became addicted to prescription drugs and soon after developed a heroin addiction, all of which he detailed in The Last Gladiators film. He's now sober for quite some time, but recalled the harrowing moment he realized he had to change his life: "I was sick, sick as a dog. I was shooting up and sitting on the toilet. I shot it and passed out on the toilet. I woke up and I saw the needle still in my arm and the blood. I'm like, 'What the [expletive]?' and I stood up right away. I fell forward and hit my head on the wall and I knocked myself out. I woke up and I said, 'I've got to stop. I've got to get help.' I was playing Russian roulette with five bullets in the chamber."
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.