There is no secret that the life of an NHLer is one that we all wish we could have. Hockey players are given more money per season than most workers are given through the entirety of their lifetime. With that said, we often tend to forget that these individuals are humans who have legitimate problems as well. Many professional hockey players surprisingly have had rough childhoods and they used that to ultimately motivate them to become NHL players. Although it is statistically harder for people with issues such as living in poverty to make it to the league, there are players who have done that. Yet, it is important to note that other hockey players grew up in very good households and even had fathers play in the league as well.
With all that has been stated, in this article, we will be looking at eight NHL players who have had messed up pasts and seven others who grew up having it way too easy. It is important to note that some of these players are now out of the league and/or retired. At the end of the day, every hockey player has had their own journey in making it to the NHL and we as fans should strive to continue to learn more about them. Some items on this list may truly shock you because you truly cannot make it up. I personally have gained a great deal of respect for the players who grew up in these rough situations.
Nonetheless, let’s take a look at the eight NHL players who have had messed up pasts and seven who had it way too easy.
15 Messed Up Past: Alex Ovechkin
Alex Ovechkin is one of the best scorers in the entire NHL and could even end up beating Wayne Gretzky’s record if he stays at this pace. Although he has yet to lead the Washington Capitals to the Stanley Cup, not all hope is lost because he still is just as good as he was when he started. So in other words, he is easily the best sniper in the NHL.
It is hard to imagine Alex Ovechkin having a difficult life. He is one of the top players in the NHL and is happily married. Yet, Ovechkin’s childhood quickly took a turn for the worse when his brother Sergei passed away in a car crash. Ovechkin was only ten years old at the time so the event significantly impacted him. It is great to see that he has overcome it though and now is happy.
14 Too Easy: P.K. Subban
P.K. Subban is one of the most electrifying hockey players in the entire NHL and is the main reason why the NAshville Predators are one of the best teams right now. Subban has developed immensely over the past few seasons and very well will go down as one of the best defenders of this generation. Expect to see him win with Nashville before his career is up.
P.K. Subban ended up having a pretty good childhood because he had an extremely supportive family. His father stopped at nothing to make sure that him and his brothers were given all the chances to succeed in hockey. As a result of this, all three of the Subban brothers are playing in the game today. P.K. has developed into an outstanding individual because of this.
13 Messed Up Past: Chris Stewart
Chris Stewart is one of the most intimidating players in the entire NHL because he is extremely physical and large in size. Although Stewart’s skill has dropped off a bit since his days with the St. Louis Blues, he has been able to keep a job in the league because of his willingness to fight and be a team player. This should keep him around for a fairly long time.
Yet, life was not always great for Chris Stewart and he spent the majority of his childhood in extreme poverty. At one point in time. Stewart even quit hockey because he found out that it was costing his family a lot of money. It is truly remarkable that Stewart and his brother ended up making it to the NHL because most people never do if they are poor.
12 Too Easy: Matthew Tkachuk
Matthew Tkachuk is one of the top young players in the NHL today and is an important part of the Flames. Although the Flames are not contenders right now, Tkachuk will be a key reason why there is hope for the squad in the future. He has the ability to carry his team offensively and even though he lacks discipline right now, it is easy to believe he will turn it around.
Matthew Tkachuk had a fantastic childhood because he had the opportunity to learn everything there is about hockey through his father, Keith. Keith was one of the best American players in the entire league during his tenure in the NHL and played similarly to his son. The connection Matthew was able to get through his father is a significant reason why he is in the league today.
11 Messed Up Past: Travis Hamonic
Travis Hamonic has developed into a very solid defensive defenseman and is an integral part of the Calgary Flames. Before being on the Flames, Hamonic spent the beginning years of his career with the New York Islanders and grew his game quite well. Although Hamonic does not dominate the score sheet, he is extremely effective defensively and physically.
Travis Hamonic grew up on a farm in Manitoba and had an extremely loving family. As a child, Hamonic was taught how to handle responsibilities and has stated it helped him grow as an adult. Yet, tragedy struck his life when his father unexpectedly passed away from a major heart attack. This left a huge impact on Hamonic’s life, but he grew from the experience and found success.
10 Too Easy: Carey Price
The Montreal Canadiens are extremely lucky to have Carey Price as their franchise goalie because he is the still the best in the world and should be for many more seasons. Although this season started off rough for him, he has picked it up immensely and it is a good sign for the club. The Canadiens need to build a stronger team around him though because he cannot do it all himself.
Besides having a fantastic career with the Montreal Canadiens thus far, Carey Price had a great childhood. Price grew up in a wealthy household because his father is an educator and was a chief of the the Ulkatcho First Nation. When Price’s family had to move to Anahim Lake, his father bought a plane to fly Price to his practices and games, instead of driving ten plus hours. That alone can show how lucky Price was to grow up in that situation compared to some of his peers.
9 Messed Up Past: Donald Brashear
Donald Brashear will forever be known as one of the greatest enforcers to ever play in the NHL because he was a terrifying man. Brashear was always a threat when he was on the ice because he was not afraid to stand up for himself and fight the bests. Although Brashear was not a star in the NHL, he was a reliable fourth line forward who had a long tenure in the NHL.
Donald Brashear had by far one of the worst childhoods in all of the NHL. When Brashear was just six months old, his biological father threw him out a window. With that, his mother left the father, but Brashear had to stay there because her new husband was racist. After his mother finally took him in, Brashear was abused by his racist stepfather. His mother then abandoned him because she thought he was too mentally ill.
8 Too Easy: Marian Hossa
It truly is a shame that Marian Hossa most likely will never play another NHL game because of an extremely rare condition that makes him allergic to his equipment. Hossa had yet to show any significant signs of slowing down and his absence this season is hurting the Chicago Blackhawks. Regardless of what happens with the rest of his career, he will be a Hockey Hall of Famer.
Marian Hossa’s childhood was not bad at all and he lived in a very nice area of Czechoslovakia. Hossa grew up wealthy because his parents both had high end jobs. Hossa’s mother worked in fashion and his father has been a head coach for many European hockey clubs. It is easy to believe that Hossa’s environment helped him.
7 Messed Up Past: Steve Downie
Many NHL fans will remember Steve Downie as one of the dirtiest players of the modern era. Downie faced a handful of hefty suspensions, including two that consisted of at least twenty games. It is very likely that NHL teams stopped going after his services because he simply lacked discipline. Yet, he was a productive player and very well could still be playing.
Many people do not know this about Steve Downie, but his childhood quickly became terrible at a young age. When on the way to a hockey game, he and his father got into a brutal car crash. Downie saw his father pass away firsthand and it completely changed his entire way of living. Although it was easy to hate Downie as a player, all of us should feel sympathy over that.
6 Too Easy: Joe Colborne
Joe Colborne has had a fairly up and down NHL career, but it is easy to believe that he could bounce back from the rough patch he is in now. Colborne’s best season in the NHL came in 2015-16 when he registered 44 points with the Calgary Flames. Although he is currently in the minors trying to fix his game, there is hope that the young man will find his way back to the top.
It is pretty intriguing to observe Joe Colborne’s childhood because many would not know how wealthy he truly was. Colborne’s father, Paul, has been a huge figure for Surge Energy Inc. and has received numerous promotions for his work. Today. Paul is the President and Chief Executive Officer for the company and is continuing to pile on the money.
5 Messed Up Past: Theo Fleury
Theo Fleury was not only a superstar in the NHL, but he also played with a lot of grit. What made this so interesting was that Fleury was also one of the smallest players in the NHL. Yet, he constantly was active in the physical side of the game. With him being a great scorer and hitter, he was always very fun to watch and will always be remembered.
Theo Fleury was sexually assaulted throughout the entirety of his junior hockey career by his coach, Graham Jones. Fleury went through a lot of destructive turmoil after this occurred. Fleury suffered from drug and alcohol addiction and it ultimately killed his career. Yet, today he is working on his former demons and now is assisting others through situations like his own.
4 Too Easy: Joffrey Lupul
Although Joffrey Lupul’s NHL career was ended prematurely due to his long injury history, he should be remembered as a good hockey player. Lupul found his stride playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs and when he was healthy, he was one of their top players. Lupul was a lone bright spot on the rebuilding Leafs roster because of his goal scoring and leadership skills.
Joffrey Lupul was also extremely lucky when it came to his childhood. Lupul’s grandfather helped create the Edmonton Oilers as an investor for the group that bought them, the Edmonton Investor’s Group. Lupul’s father also was an attorney, so it is fair to assume that Lupul’s family had a lot of money. The Lupul family’s love for the Oilers also allowed him to enjoy many games as a kid. That ultimately could have lead him to becoming professional.
3 Messed Up Past: Patrick O’Sullivan
Patrick O’Sullivan was a solid depth forward in the NHL and is mostly remembered for his days playing for the Los Angeles Kings and Edmonton Oilers. O’Sullivan had a few seasons where it appeared that he would blossom into a star, but injuries quickly derailed his career. O’Sullivan would end up finishing his hockey career in the AHL and in Europe, but failed to make it back to the NHL.
Although Patrick O’Sullivan was not necessarily an NHL superstar, his childhood story is one to remember. O’Sullivan’s father used to viciously beat him after games when he made mistakes on the ice. O’Sullivan would take the abuse for years. Once he finally fought back, he successfully got a restraining order from him. It is such a sad story, but it is great that he has opened up the world to his struggle.
2 Too Easy: Zach Parise
During his prime years, Zach Parise was one of the most dominant players in the entire NHL because he was a playmaking machine. Parise single handedly helped the New Jersey Devils become Stanley Cup contenders. That amazing play helped him land a massive long-term contract with the Minnesota Wild. Unfortunately his play has dipped lately and he has had some health issues.
Parise had a fairly smooth road to the NHL since his father, J.P. Parise was a star in the NHL. Literally. He actually was a great player for the original Minnesota hockey team, the North Stars. It's cool to see Zach play where his dad did, but you can't help but feel some of his success came from having an NHL dad.
1 Messed Up Past: Bobby Ryan
Bobby Ryan has had an up and down NHL career, but he still is a talented player. During his tenure with the Anaheim Ducks, Ryan was one of the game’s most elite scorers. However, playing in Ottawa has seemed to slow him down a bit. Yet, Ryan averaged about a point per game in last year’s playoffs so there is still hope for him.
When looking at Bobby Ryan’s childhood, it can easily be deemed as atrocious. After his father was charged with attempted murder against his mother, the family escaped to Canada to run from his sentence. Ryan’s real name is Robert Stevenson, but he was forced to live with this false identity. The father was eventually caught, but Ryan decided to keep his adopted name. Nonetheless, the trauma from his childhood is one that can never be forgotten.