The professional sports world can be a great thing for both the athletes and the common fan. Athletes love it because it is ultimately an escape from reality. They don't have to go to college paying tens of thousands of dollars and also don't have to worry about finding a job immediately after college. Fans love it because it gives them a source of entertainment. The common fan will work an eight to four or nine to five job. Then, they will come home, have some dinner, and then sit in front of a television watching their hometown team battle. There is a lot of good that can come out of professional sports. Like most other aspects of life, where good comes; bad can follow.
With great power and skill comes great responsibility. Sometimes, professional athletes do not know how to handle all the temptations that come their way. This is especially true when talking about the NHL. The NHL has had its fair share of players in the past that have taken dark turns and simply never recovered. This list takes a look at all of those NHL players, coaches, and even an owner who couldn't help themselves. Fair warning, there are some sad stories that might make fans a bit teary-eyed; but unfortunately that comes with the territory of bad decision-making. Every issue is touched upon from fraud to domestic violence, to prison, and even some deaths along the way. Without further adieu, here are the top 15 NHL personnel who sunk to a dark place and where they are now.
15 Theoren Fleury
To start off a list, we bring a player that actually shared his problems in his phenomenal book, Playing With Fire. Fleury spoke about how he turned to alcohol and drugs as a way to cope with the physical and sexual abuse he suffered as a kid and adolescent from his former hockey coach. Fleury even revealed that he was close to taking his own life, going so far as to hold a loaded gun into his mouth.
"I remember what it sounded like rattling around on my teeth. I remember what it tasted like," he said.
Since his NHL career ended, Fleury has stayed sober and become an advocate speaking out against sexual abuse. He also has taken up a country music career, releasing an album entitled "I Am Who I Am".
14 Darren McCarty
There is people with hardships they can get over, and then there are others that people can't seem to shake. That is certainly the case for the number 14 guy on this list. Darren McCarty was a right winger who was very tough. He enjoyed a nice career of 127 goals, 161 assists, and 288 total points. His best season came during the 1996-1997 campaign when he had 19 goals and 30 assists for 49 total points. He also enjoyed the pleasure of winning Stanley Cup championships as well. With all of the success he had, he couldn't resist temptations. He had struggles with alcohol, cocaine, and ecstasy. A lot of people, including McCarty himself have referred to him as a "functioning alcoholic".
He seems to have completely quit cocaine and ecstasy. But for the time being, he will have to drop alcohol completely if he wants any chance at a sober life and stop being in the dark days of his post-NHL life.
13 Chris Simon
The assumed presumption of professional athletes is that they make millions of dollars and take care of their money responsibly. That wasn't the case for the number 13 entrant of having dark days. Chris Simon was having the time of his life playing in the NHL. He was playing professional hockey and making millions of dollars, every person's dream. He had 305 career points, scoring 144 goals while recording 161 assists. His best season came during the 1999-00 campaign when he scored 29 goals and 20 assists. Unfortunately, he couldn't handle all of his money. He lost all of it and had to declare for bankruptcy earlier this year.
He has Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy symptoms, which basically is a way of saying he has bad brain trauma. With all of the injuries suffered and no money to show for it, it is pretty easy to see why Simon is in the dark days of his life and it doesn't look like there are signs that it will get any better.
12 Mike Danton
Players will do just about anything they can to stay in their sport once they realize they cannot stay competitive at the highest level. The number 12 guy on this list had to resort to that option after he got himself into a little bit of trouble. Mike Danton was a center that enjoyed time in both the Devils and Blues organizations. His life came to a dark place when he was sentenced to five years in prison for a conspiracy to commit murder charge. After his sentence, he couldn't get back with an NHL team for obvious reasons. He ended up playing in the LNAH which is a league in Europe. Imagine playing in the best league possible for hockey, do one dumb action, and then have to resort to playing in Europe just to keep your career going? Those sound like the darkest of days for a player, especially in Danton's case.
11 Patrick Cote
There are the players in the NHL that are known more for their antics and schemes off of the ice than their production on the ice. The number 11 suspect on this list fits that description down to the last word. Patrick Cote was a left winger that didn't do a whole lot during his time in the NHL. He had one NHL season in which he played 70 games and recorded a woeful three points, one goal and two assists. Besides that one season, he never played more than 21 games in any of his other professional seasons.
For what he lacked on the ice, he made up for it with his darkness off the ice. Cote was arrested in 2014 for two bank robberies he committed. He ended up receiving a 30 month prison sentence for his unthinkable act. He has not been able to recover from it since. It is tough to think about how a guy that played in the NHL would think robbing banks was a good way to become financially more stable.
10 Corey Hirsch
Goalies are paid to stop the puck from going in the net, pretty simple hockey concept. But did somebody tell the number 10 individual on this list he would need to stop himself from ending his life? Probably not. Corey Hirsch was a goaltender who spent a better part of his NHL career traveling. He made stops with the Rangers, Canucks, Capitals, and Stars. Supposedly, he suffers from OCD as well as severe anxiety. So that could give an indication as to why he can be considered unstable. In a Player's Tribune article, Hirsch writes about the darkest points of his life. One moment included thinking about driving off a cliff at a dangerously high rate of speed and ending his life. Ultimately, he didn't do it and eventually became a goal-tending coach for a short span of time.
Now, he is a TV analyst on NHL on Sportsnet; so he seems to have his life together for the short-term. But long-term, people have to think if Corey Hirsch is still living a life of darkness based on past actions.
9 Patrick Kane
Skating into the number nine spot on this list goes to a guy that has been accused of domestic violence, second degree robbery, theft, sexual assault...and STILL is playing in the NHL. Patrick Kane has had quite the career for himself so far in his career with the Chicago Blackhawks. He has 285 career goals and 467 career assists for 752 total points and he hasn't shown signs of slowing down. He was the first pick in the 2007 NHL Draft and has since helped Chicago win three Stanley Cup championships. Definitely not a bad career for Kane if he decided to retire tomorrow.
But with his charges brought against him for the charges listed above, these are certainly some dark events that have to hang over Kane's head. The amazing part is he got off on those charges and continues to play in the NHL. Whoever Kane's lawyers were must have really made an outstanding case to get Kane out of his dark days. A gut feeling says that Kane will have more dark days ahead of him.
8 Alex Galchenyuk
The Montreal Canadiens have had a history of solid individuals to have their numbers retired. Players such as Howie Morenz and Guy LaFleur gave their hearts and souls for the Canadiens and were rightfully rewarded for it. The number eight guy on this list might not get that honor when all is said and done. Alex Galchenyuk was a part of the Canadiens for five seasons. He had 89 goals and 115 assists in five seasons with Montreal, not a bad five year stretch for a center in this league. But his encounters with others may keep him from achieving ultimate greatness.
There were reports that he was dealing with a girlfriend who came home one night to see the Montreal center in his home with other women. She then began to attack him out of rage. Now, this isn't necessarily Galchenyuk's fault. But, he needs to be smarter in the case that he needs to surround himself with better people. Otherwise, he will keep having dark encounters like this and who knows where his life will go. He is already out of the NHL, whats the next bad step to happen?
7 Jack Johnson
What is that old saying that parents will tell their teenagers when they are old enough to understand its significance? "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer?" That is all well and good, but where in that expression does it mention to say anything about family? That is a question the number seven NHL player on this list probably wants an answer to. Jack Johnson is a defensemen who spent his playing days in the Columbus Blue Jackets and Los Angeles Kings organizations throughout his career. The worst mistake he made was getting his parents involved. He made his parents power over all of his finances. With loans taken out and money used for luxuries consistently, Johnson had to declare for bankruptcy in 2014. What a world we live in that parents can't be trusted with money anymore! Johnson played a few more seasons after the bankruptcy, but probably still has dark days; wondering if he can ever trust his parents again!
6 Mike McBain
The darkest days are the one where players are all alone with nothing but their thoughts and regret. For the number six gentleman (if you can call him that) on this list, he will be living like this probably for the rest of his life. Mike McBain played two NHL seasons and recorded a huge total of seven career points. All of those points were also assists, no goals ever! It is funny to think about how McBain couldn't even get an empty-net goal. He really thought he scored when he was arrested for having sexual relations with a female under the age of 18. He was given 4-15 years in prison for his actions and still is in prison today. This guy is the scum of the earth and definitely living in some dark days. Some players don't deserve it, but McBain is a first class candidate for earning every dark day that comes to him now on.
5 John Spano: Owner
Players and coaches are easy to pick for culprits that can have their darkest days. But did fans ever think an owner could fit those qualifications as well? The number five member of this prestigious list definitely has had his share of bad days. John Spano wanted to buy the New York Islanders when they were for sale during the late 1990's. It seemed like he was going to buy the team and save the franchise from folding. Boy, were Long-Island fans wrong! It turns out John Spano was a fraud. Those were also the charges that got him into a lot of trouble. Spano was arrested for bank fraud, writing continuous bad checks to come up with the money to buy the Islanders.
He was also arrested in 2015 for mail fraud and is still in prison to this day. It just goes to show how bad some people can be in the NHL, whether it is on the ice or in the owner's box. The Islanders have stayed in the NHL and Spano stays in the slammer. Everything is right in the world!
4 Chris Nilan
Chris Nilan has been very open with his past struggles with addiction and unlike some others on this list, Nilan has found redemption. After his hockey career ended, Nilan landed a coaching job with the New Jersey Devils but eventually decided coaching wasn't for him. His addiction problems would soon reach a boiling point. Nilan's money problems also got the best of him in 2009 when he was arrested for shoplifting a pair of swim trunks from a story in Quincy, Mass.
"I just wanted to save a few bucks," Nilan, 51, told police.
Nilan has since gotten sober and has found a lot of success as a radio host and Montreal Canadiens analyst in Montreal. He has continued to share his story in hopes that others don't fall down the same path.
3 Craig MacTavish
Since this occurred so many years ago, many people have forgotten about this, but Craig MacTavish, then a member of the Bruins was arrested for drunk driving and vehicular homicide, as he killed 26-year-old Kim Radley due to his driving drunk. He spent a year in prison, missing the entire 1984-85 season. He was eventually signed by the Oilers when he got out, and his crime has largely been forgotten about today. Drunk driving laws weren't as severe as they are today and because of MacTavish's remorse shown in the courtroom, he was given a light sentence.
Since retiring, MacTavish has taken on several roles in the Oilers' organization, from coach to GM to now a Vice President of Hockey Operations. Some see this as mostly a job in name only, as Peter Chiarelli really seems to be the one running the hockey side of things in Edmonton.
2 Sean McMorrow
Sean McMorrow was caught smuggling drugs several times, including one incident where he was caught by border patrol for smuggling a bag full of $27,000 in cash that smelled like MJ. Despite being let go, McMorrow didn't learn his lesson from the incident and continued to run a drug ring that had drugs being transported from Toronto to Niagara Falls in upstate New York. He was sentenced to two years in prison when he was caught and was deported back to Canada.
His lawyer seemed shocked when McMorrow was sentenced:
"He’s in shock, frankly. Even though he was aware that he was facing the possibility of the prison sentence, we thought we made a strong case,” Kasperek said. “Everybody’s shocked.”
McMorrow was arrested again in Quebec in 2015, due to fleeing the scene of an accidnet and being caught in possession of drugs.
1 Mike Ribeiro
Your guess is as good as ours regarding Mike Ribeiro. Ribeiro has dealt with substance abuse problems his entire career and has fallen into a dark place. His own agent has come out and said that Ribeiro's NHL career is likely over, as he hasn't been able to reach his client in months following a relapse.
Bob Perno told Quebec newspaper, La Presse: "Nobody really knows what he's doing these days," Perno said, translated from French to English. "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. Every time my phone rings, I hope it's him."
That definitely is very sad to hear, and you wonder if Ribeiro will ever find redemption, if not in hockey, then as a human being.