Hockey is a fast and tough sport. Professional hockey players are paid well to do what they do. Some players are able to keep a level head and continue to play hard and improve despite earning millions of dollars. Others sign big contracts and stop trying. Some work hard to maintain the best possible physical conditioning while others could care less. These daysm the NHL, as well as other major sports leagues, demand proper behavior from their players. Off ice actions are being monitored closely in this age of social media and when an indiscretion arises, it's quickly splashed across the internet. These off ice incidents are resulting in more and more disciplinary actions against the offending players.
Players have been sabotaging their own careers since the early days. Some have ruined their careers with drugs and alcohol among other things. A few lucky players have been able to bounce back and resume their productive careers while a few bad apples have left themselves with no chance at redemption. A lot of these players have trouble adjusting to life away from hockey.
Fans often wonder what disgraced players do after leaving professional hockey. Here is a list of 17 NHLers that fell from grace and where they are now.
17 Dale Purinton
The often suspended Dale Purinton spent an unremarkable four year career with the New York Rangers. His only real achievements appear to be his 578 penalty minutes in 181 professional games. After going unclaimed through the waiver process in 2004, his NHL days were over. He played in the minors for a couple seasons before calling it quits.
He moved on to coaching at the minor level. He was coach of the Kerry Park Islanders from 2012 until his dismissal during their 2015 training camp. He didn’t adjust well to unemployment.
It didn't take him too long to find himself under arrest and charged with first-degree burglary and assault. He had allegedly broken in to an acquaintance’s home and attacked the occupant. He is currently on bail awaiting a trial date. He faces up to to 25 years in prison.
16 Tom McCarthy
Upon entering the NHL with the Minnesota North Stars in 1979, Tom McCarthy proved himself to be a solid point producer. He played in Minnesota for seven years before spending his final two years in Boston and retiring in 1988. From there, McCarthy would have his ups and downs.
He found himself in the company of drug dealers and it wasn’t long before he was arrested for conspiracy to traffic marijuana. He served nearly four years in prison before his release in 1998.
15 Chris Nilan
Appropriately nicknamed “Knuckles,” Chris Nilan realized his dream of playing professional hockey. He was a scrapper and he played hard from the moment he stepped on the ice with the Montreal Canadiens in 1979.
He had a series of jobs and appeared to be coping with life after hockey well, but after undergoing knee surgery in 1999, he got hooked on painkillers. With a healthy mix of alcohol to compliment the pills, Nilan quickly found his life spin out of control. He was soon battling a pretty severe heroin addiction and was in and out of rehab. Nilan was publicly humiliated in 2009 when it was reported that he had been caught shoplifting.
14 Sheldon Kennedy
Sheldon Kennedy has had to battle more demons than we know. He was the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of his junior coach Graham James and he battled alcoholism and drug addiction throughout his shortened NHL career. Sheldon Kennedy was brave enough to finally come forward and expose Graham James which in turn helped other victims come forward. Still, Kennedy’s drug abuse and alcoholism was widely known and it hampered his ability to continue as a professional player. He found himself out of the NHL before his 30th birthday. He continued to battle drugs and alcohol but finally was able to deal with his addictions.
13 Michael McBain
Not many athletes can transform mediocrity into long career but Mike McBain was able to do it. Over his decade long professional hockey career, McBain saw action in 64 NHL games over two seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but the rest of his time was spent toiling in the minor leagues. After he retired from hockey in 2008, he secured a job as an assistant coach with the ECHL’s Las Vegas Wranglers.
12 Sean McMorrow
Sean McMorrow can only be referred to as an NHLer in the loosest of terms. He came out of the obscurity of the minor leagues to grace the Buffalo Sabres roster for one completely forgettable game during the 2002-03 season. The aspiring pugilist could barely cut the mustard in the minor leagues and it is a miracle that he saw even one game at the NHL level. After wallowing in the minor leagues for another few years, he finally gave up in 2012.
11 Slava Voynov
10 Sean Avery
Not many hockey players or pro athletes for that matter could stir up as much controversy as Sean Avery. He came in to the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings during the 2001-02 season. Detroit won the Stanley Cup that year but Avery’s name was not etched on it because he hadn’t played in enough games. He went on to play for the Kings, Rangers and the Dallas Stars. Avery was no stranger to controversy. If he wasn’t pestering or delivering cheap shots on the ice, he would be pestering and delivering cheap shots in the media. He continually alienated himself from teammates, coaches, referees and team management. He was finally placed on waivers in 2012. There were no takers and he cleared easily signaling the end of his NHL career.
9 Marty McSorley
Marty McSorley made his name as one of the toughest enforcers the NHL has ever seen. He was Wayne Gretzky’s on-ice bodyguard and he would never hesitate to pound on an opponent for the slightest transgression. After a long run with the Los Angeles Kings he was traded to the New York Rangers and then bounced around to a few more teams before ending up in Boston where his NHL career ended in 2000.
In one of the most classless acts ever seen in professional hockey, McSorley purposefully swung his stick and connected with Canuck forward Donald Brashear’s head. The hulking Brashear was knocked out and suffered a concussion. McSorley was charged with, and found guilty of, assault while also being indefinitely banned from the NHL. In fact, his banishment extended to Europe which prevented McSorley’s attempts to continue his career in England and Germany.
8 Dany Heatley
While it is true that Dany Heatley was once a goal scoring machine, he is most notably remembered for being responsible for the death of his Atlanta Thrasher teammate and friend Dan Snyder in 2003. He was charged with, and pleaded guilty to, vehicular homicide. He was luckily able to avoid incarceration due in part to the support of the deceased’s family.
Heatley did manage to make use of his second chance. His career flourished over the next six years in Ottawa and in San Jose but it appeared to hit a brick wall when he went to the Minnesota Wild in 2011. Heatley’s production ebbed dramatically over his three seasons in Minnesota. Anaheim picked up the faded Heatley to start the 2014-15 season but he lasted only six pointless games before being put on waivers.
7 Tony Demers
A meaningless footnote to the annals of hockey, Tony Demers played a total of 83 games in the NHL through his professional career. He hit his stride in the minor leagues, becoming a notable player on the Sherbrooke roster. Seasons like that probably had NHL scouts taking a closer look but Demers threw it all away by beating his girlfriend to death.
6 Todd Bertuzzi
What can be said about Todd Bertuzzi? He was a talented power forward who blossomed into a star during his heyday with the Vancouver Canucks. His name, however, will always be associated with a vicious on-ice attack which resulted in Steve Moore’s career ending neck injury. Yes, Todd Bertuzzi injured Steve Moore’s neck after sucker punching and piling up on the defenseless Moore. He was banned indefinitely for his transgression.
He was able to return to the Canucks for the 2005-06 season but was dealt to Florida, followed by short stints with Detroit, Calgary and Anaheim. In the 2009-10 season, he returned to Detroit where he would play another five seasons. After an unsuccessful attempt to extend his career with the Ottawa Senators, he retired early in 2015.
5 Kevin Stevens
Kevin Stevens was a prototypical power-forward. Blessed with both talent and size, he made his NHL debut with the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 1987-88 season and was an integral part of Pittsburgh’s back-to-back Stanley Cups.
During a playoff game in 1993, he took a hard check and fell face first on the ice. His face was severely shattered and he required reconstructive surgery. This incident is widely believed to be a critical turning point in his career. While he was able to bounce back the following season, he was subsequently traded to the Bruins where it really started to go downhill. His on-ice production declined considerably.
Kevin Stevens’ notorious fall from grace occurred in January 2000 when he was arrested in a hotel while smoking crack with a lady of the night. He admitted that he had been abusing crack for the previous eight years. He tried unsuccessfully to salvage what was left of his career and was out of hockey in 2002.
4 Derek Sanderson
Derek “Turk” Sanderson was quite a productive player in his first five professional seasons with the Boston Bruins. He then stunned the hockey world by signing a record-breaking $2.6 million dollar contract with the Philadelphia Blazers of the upstart WHA. Despite all the fanfare, his time in the WHA was a disaster and he was jettisoned by the Blazers. The next few years of heavy drinking, bad business deals and failing health would eventually cost him his career. When his playing days were over, he had no money left and he was reduced to sleeping on park benches.
3 Craig MacTavish
2 Theo Fleury
Theo Fleury is a small guy who played big. The perennial All-Star won a Stanley Cup, an Olympic Gold medal and a showcase full of personal awards. He also had his share of demons stemming largely from being the victim of repeated sexual abuse when he was younger. Unable to cope, Fleury turned to drugs and alcohol. Although he was still able to play at a very high level, off the ice, his condition deteriorated and his antics were becoming well known.
1 Mike Danton
The story of Mike Danton raised many eyebrows. He played parts of three unremarkable seasons in the NHL before gaining notoriety for his off-ice actions. Just days after he and the St. Louis Blues were eliminated from the 2004 playoffs, he was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit murder. Danton had hired a hitman - who turned out to be an undercover cop - to dispose of his agent David Frost. Regardless of intentions due to Frost's character, he was found guilty and he wound up quietly serving 65 months of a 7 ½ year sentence.
Danton returned to hockey after his release but he will likely never play in the NHL ever again. He has bounced around European leagues and is currently playing in Poland.
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