When we talk about hockey players who lost everything this could refer to their finances, careers or health. While money can always be replaced, a player’s health and well being is sometimes lost forever. This list deals with 15 players who suffered a major loss during or after their careers in one way or another. Several players developed problems after retiring, but fortunately, things worked out well in most cases, but there are a few instances in which the person paid the ultimate price, which was their life.
These players all skated at least a part of their pro days in the 1990s or started their NHL careers in the decade with most of them enjoying lengthy careers. Many of them were so-called enforcers who apparently became addicted to drugs and alcohol as a way to deal with their on-ice responsibilities. Several of them suffered concussions and numerous blows to the head and would later develop psychological problems including depression. Unfortunately some of them also ended up taking their own lives.
On the bright side, those who are still with us have turned their lives around and are now sharing their wisdom with others. Players who have suffered through problems in the past are now sharing their experiences with today’s generation of players. This knowledge is passed on to try and help other players to steer clear from the consequences of addiction and mental health disorders. Most importantly, anybody who is suffering from an addiction or depression is urged to seek help as soon as possible.
15 Wade Belak
Wade Belak wasn’t a highly skilled player even though he was drafted 12th overall by the Quebec Nordiques in 1994, but he was a solid and dependable performer who could play both defence and forward. One of Belak’s prime responsibilities was to make sure nobody took liberties with his more skilled teammates and he did a fine job of it with Colorado, Calgary, Toronto, Florida and Nashville in an NHL career which spanned from 1996 to 2011. The 6-foot-5 enforcer was just as well known for his sense of humour as he was for his toughness on the ice, but it appears he was battling depression once his career ended. Belak was found in his condo close to the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on August 31, 2011, dead at the age of 35 by apparent suicide.
14 Bob Probert
Bob Probert was a legendary enforcer who served 3,300 minutes in penalties during his career with Detroit and Chicago from 1985 to 2002. He could also put the puck in the net and had seasons of 29, 20 and 19 goals. Probert had numerous fights with the league’s top enforcers and was a human highlight reel when it came to fisticuffs. He was also known to be a drug user though and ended up passing away at the age of 45 in 2010 due to heart failure. Probert was involved in community work, but also ended on the wrong side of the law on occasion. Medical studies after death found he suffered from CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Probert’s ashes were spread in the Red Wings’ penalty box at the last NHL game at Joe Louis Arena in April.
13 Todd Ewen
Right-winger Todd Ewen carved out a fine NHL career for himself between 1986 and 1997 while skating with St. Louis, Montreal, Anaheim and San Jose. The highlight of his career was hoisting the Stanley Cup as a member of the Canadiens in 1992-93. Ewen was another effective, bright and witty enforcer on the ice who struggled while off of it. Ewen reportedly fought 150 times during his career, including 27 times alone in his final season. He got involved in coaching after retiring and also made several coaching-related videos aimed at helping parents and their children. According to Ewen’s family, he suffered from depression once his career came to an end. Ewen passed away from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in September of 2015 when he was 49 years old, but tests showed he wasn’t suffering from CTE.
12 Theoren Fleury
Despite being just 5-feet-6-inches tall, Theoren Fleury of Oxbow Saskatchewan posted 1,088 points in 1,084 regular season contests between 1988 and 2003 on 455 goals and 633 assists. The feisty Fleury is best known for his days with the Calgary Flames, winning a Stanley Cup with them in 1987-88, but also played with Colorado, the New York Rangers, and Chicago during his career. The former all-star winger and two-time Olympian was known to have battled alcohol, cocaine and gambling problems throughout his life and once put a gun to his mouth during an alcoholic stupor in 2004. Fortunately, Fleury successfully kicked his bad habits in 2005 and wrote a bestselling book about his ordeals called Playing with Fire. He’s been a successful businessman since retiring and has also released several country and western songs.
11 Clint Malarchuk
One of the NHL’s most gruesome injuries was suffered by goaltender Clint Malarchuk of Buffalo in a home game against St. Louis in 1989. A skate blade severed his jugular vein and he came close to dying on the ice if it hadn’t been for the heroics of Sabres’ trainer Jim Pizzutelli. Malarchuk lost 1.5 litres of blood in the horrific incident and needed 300 stitches to sew the wound. Malarchuk played with Quebec, Buffalo and Washington from 1981-82 to 1991-92 then entered coaching. He attempted suicide in 2008 while dealing with domestic problems and stress and suffered a gun wound to his chin. He went to rehab for alcoholism, stress and obsessive-compulsive disorder and overcame his problems. Malarchuk and his wife now speak at mental health conventions to help others deal with their psychological disorders.
10 Mike Peluso
After being drafted as a skilled defenceman by New Jersey in 1984, Mike Peluso was soon converted to a tough enforcer who once served 408 minutes in penalties in a season. He played from 1990 to 1998 with the Devils, Chicago, Ottawa, St. Louis and Calgary and helped New Jersey win the Stanley Cup in 1994-95. The Minnesota native retired in 1997-98 after suffering a neck/spinal cord injury six years after racking up a career-high 15 goals. The 51-year-old has struggled since retiring and says his career wasn’t worth the pain it’s caused. Peluso says he suffers from brain damage, seizures, memory blackouts, strained personal relationships and depression and expects to die young. He suffered several concussions and seizures during his career and was part of a class action lawsuit against the NHL regarding head injuries.
9 Chris Nilan
Forward Chris Nilan was another enforcer, but perhaps a more skilled than some others. Nilan skated in from 1979 to 1992 with Boston, the New York Rangers and Montreal with 225 points in 688 games. He was known as ‘Knuckles’ for his fighting prowess and won a Stanley Cup with the Habs in 1985-86. Nilan became addicted to alcohol, prescription drugs and heroin after retiring and also ran afoul of the law for shoplifting. And let’s not forget his infamous rounds of Russian roulette with a reported five bullets loaded in the gun’s chamber. Nilan’s life spiraled out of control and death looked a certainty until he sought help. He spoke of his addictions in the film The Last Gladiators. He now speaks to charitable and social groups about avoiding addictions and hosts a radio show in Montreal.
8 Kevin Stevens
Power forward Kevin Stevens scored 726 points in 874 games and was a two-time 50-goal and 100-pooint scorer. He played from 1987 to 2002 with Pittsburgh, Boston, Los Angeles, the New York Rangers and Philadelphia. The three-time all-star also won a pair of Stanley Cups with the Penguins. However, he made the headlines in January of 2000 for purchasing, using and selling crack cocaine as well as soliciting a prostitute. The incident took place in a seedy area of St. Louis while Stevens was playing with the Rangers. He allegedly gave the hooker $500 for sex and crack and proceeded to smoke it with her while drunk. Stevens entered the NHL’s substance abuse program and retired two years later. Fast forward to May, 2016 and Stevens was charged with possession and conspiracy with intent to distribute oxycodone.
7 Ken Daneyko
Ken Daneyko was a star NHL defenceman who played his entire career with the New Jersey Devils from 1984 to 2003 after being drafted 18th overall in 1982. He also helped the team win three Stanley Cups during his stint and his sweater number three was retired by the club. Things have worked out well for ‘Mr Devil’ as he now works as a Devils’ broadcaster on the MSG network, but he did have to battle his demons in the past. Daneyko admitted he became addicted to alcohol during his stellar career, but didn’t address the issue until 1997 when he finally asked GM Lou Lamoriello for help. Daneyko then entered rehab to save both his marriage and career. However, he still struggled with booze after retiring and was arrested in 2006 on a DUI charge..
6 Brantt Myhres
Brantt Myhres is a rags to riches story as he recovered well from past indiscretions. Mhyres played with six teams from 1994 to 2003, but played just 153 games due to addictions and was released from the Flyers due to excessive drinking. He admitted to bribing drug testers and cheating on tests, but was eventually caught with alcohol and cocaine in his system. He spent close to three years in rehab after four failed drug tests and the NHL eventually banned him for life in 2006. Myhres cleaned himself up after several attempts though and was hired by the Los Angeles Kings to mentor players who may have off-ice issues. He admitted to flushing away $2 million in the 1990s and the NHL said they spent more money on Myhres than any other player in substance-abuse history.
5 Rob Ramage
Skilled defenceman Rob Ramage enjoyed a 15-year career between 1979 and 1994 with the Colorado Rockies, New Jersey, St. Louis, Calgary, Toronto, the Minnesota North Stars, Tampa, Montreal and Philadelphia. The former first-overall draft pick of 1979 captained several teams and finished his career with 564 points in 1,044 games. Ramage made a huge mistake in December of 2003 though when he was driving former NHL player Keith Magnuson to a players’ association meeting. Ramage collided with another car and the collision injured the other driver and killed Magnuson. Ramage was found guilty on several impaired driving charges relating to the accident in 2007 and was sentenced to four years in 2008. His appeal was denied and Ramage went to jail in 2010, but was paroled as year later. He resumed his coaching career after being released.
4 Darren McCarty
Tough forward Darren McCarty was a four-time Stanley Cup winner with Detroit and also played with Calgary for two seasons between 1993 and 2009. He lifted his game during the playoffs and became a key player for the Red Wings. He didn’t mind dropping the gloves either, but ended up seeking relief in the form of alcohol and drugs. McCarty revealed his struggles in his book a few years after retiring and admitted to testing positive for marijuana at least 30 times while playing and using cocaine to sober up when drunk. His book also features stories about filing for bankruptcy, his divorces, infidelity, and gambling problems. After retiring, McCarty dabbled in broadcasting, TV appearances and singing for a rock band. He also and founded the McCarty Cancer Foundation for Myeloma, which his father suffered from.
3 John Kordic
John Kordic was a top NHL enforcer between 1986 and 1992 when he skated for Montreal, Toronto, Washington and Quebec. Kordic scored the odd goal here and there, but was more adept at dropping the gloves. He won a Stanley Cup with the Canadiens in his first year, but bounced from team to team after becoming addicted to steroids, alcohol, and cocaine. Kordic passed away at the age of 27 in 1992 when he became involved in an altercation with police offices at a motel in the small town of L'Ancienne-Lorette, Quebec. The autopsy revealed he had alcohol and cocaine in his system and his heart gave out on him during the physical struggle with the police. Kordic had told family and friends he was going to turn his life around, but he never got the chance.
2 Todd Fedoruk
Left-winger Todd Fedoruk was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1997 and his NHL career lasted until 2010. He also skated with Anaheim, Dallas, Minnesota, Phoenix and Tampa with 97 points and 1,050 penalty minutes to his name in 545 games. Fedoruk admitted that he became fond of alcohol as a teenager and things progressively got worse from there. The Flyers found out about his drinking habits shortly after drafting him and he entered rehab. Fedoruk was then sober for six years, but relapsed when he joined the Minnesota Wild. He began drinking again and started using cocaine before asking for help via the league’s substance abuse program in 2010. He underwent a month-long program to win his ongoing fight against addiction and entered the world of professional coaching after retiring.
1 Steve Moore
The Colorado Avalanche drafted centre Steve Moore in 1998 and he played with the team until 2004. Moore is different from the rest of the players on this list since he lost his career due to injury rather than substance abuse. His playing days ended after forward Todd Bertuzzi of the Vancouver Canucks attacked him from behind during a game in March of 2004. Bertuzzi punched Moore in the back of the head from behind late in the game which Colorado was leading 8-2 as payback for a hit Moore delivered to Vancouver’s Markus Naslund earlier in the season. Bertuzzi landed on Moore and drove him into the ice, resulting in a severe neck injury and a concussion. Moore, who’s now 38-years-old, sued and the case dragged on until being settled out of court in 2014.
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