Ice hockey is a game of extremes. At one end of the spectrum it is the most graceful, heroic, and glorious sport where athletes truly embrace a team concept and every player is critical to a team's success. On the other end, it is most tragic and violent sport where players endure some of the most vicious injuries including severed arteries. Every player skates a fine line where split seconds define goals and victories or losses and injury. For many ex- players, they are able to leave the game on their own terms, some turn corners and live a full, complete life while others spiral out of control.
It's always tough for a professional athlete to adjust to life once they're away from the game. Sometimes the answer to finding purpose is to stay in the game, via working in a front office, behind the bench or becoming a television analyst. Some guys can find solace in getting away from the game altogether. They start their own business, they spend more time with their family or they pick up a new life skill. Others simply fall apart and can't find their purpose without playing the game. Either way, here are 10 players who saw their lives fall apart after leaving the NHL and 10 that managed to find success after hockey.
20 Fell Apart: Marek Svatoš
Some players hit the ice flying and show extreme promise like Marek, who jumped right into action with the Colorado Avalanche in the 2005 season. The young Czech looked like a true sniper after scoring 32 goals that rookie season, but injuries to his right shoulder, groin, knees, and eventual concussions sharply ended his career. He was never able to fly down the wing and let that shot go with power and accuracy, and he retired from the NHL in 2012, after being claimed by the Ottawa Senators
19 Thrived: Steve Yzerman
Known as "The Captain," Yzerman had a successful career as a player and after he retired. He brought hockey back to "Motown" and captained the Red Wings to three Stanley Cups. He averaged more than a point per game, spent his entire career with the Red Wings, and his number 19 is hanging in the rafters.
18 Fell Apart: Mike Richards
The fiery Flyers first round pick and subsequent captain symbolized the city's heart. He played with guts, heart, talent, and was able to torment rival players like Sidney Crosby. The center played every shift like it was his last, winning championships at every level including the Stanley Cup for the Los Angeles kings in 2012 and 2014.
17 Thrived: Kevin Weekes
16 Fell Apart: Bruce McNall
While not a player, Bruce McNall was too big a figure to ignore when looking at lives that fell apart after hockey. His career began in 1987, when he became the most important man in the Los Angeles Kings family. He increased his clout a year later when he made the biggest, most astonishing trade in NHL history and acquired Wayne Gretzky from the Edmonton Oilers. As the Kings really became a hockey town, and they went to their first Stanley Cup finals in 1993, losing to the Montreal Canadiens.
15 Thrived: Jordan Siglet
14 Fell Apart: Slava Voynov
Since winning the 2014 Stanley Cup with the Kings, Slava Voynov's life has fallen apart and we haven't seen him play in the NHL for over two years. And it's all his fault. Voynov was suspended indefinitely by the NHL in October 2014 after Voynov found himself facing charges of domestic violence. After his wife said that Voynov did not intend to injure her and requested he not be charged. Voynov was eventually sentenced to 90 days in prison after pleading no-contest to a reduced misdemeanor charge.
13 Thrived: Theo Fleury
Fleury is one of the players who represents everything great about the sport both while he played and after he retired. As a player, he was tireless, passionate, and he won a cup. He was an Olympian, and packed more skill and toughness in his tiny frame than perhaps any player that ever played. He averaged more than a point per game, and is known for one of the most pure and emotional goal scoring celebrations in NHL history. He played with more heart and courage than almost any player of his era and this continued after he retired.
12 Fell Apart: Ian White
Ian White had a promising start to his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but ultimately his game went south following a trade to Calgary. After a stint in the minors, White announced his retirement following the 2014-15 season at the age of 31. Since retiring, White has had a hard time adjusting to post-hockey life. Just months later, White was charged with multiple weapons offenses. Police documents later revealed that White had become addicted to drugs and his marriage was falling apart.
11 Thrived: Eddie Olczyk
10 10. Fell Apart: Dale Purinton
The role of the enforcer was one that took a negative toll on many NHL players. Just picture being a player, knowing that every night, your role is to pound someone's face in, while taking some head shots yourself. Dale Purinton played this role, playing 181 games for the Rangers, racking up 578 penalty minutes in the process. After leaving the Rangers, Purinton spent a lot of the later stages of his career in the minors.
9 Thrive: Paul Kariya
8 Fell Apart: Kevin Stevens
Kevin Stevens' life seemed to be hitting some speed bumps before he left the NHL. In 2000, he was arrested for possession of cocaine and after a stint in rehab, he attempted to make an NHL comeback. While he recorded 726 points in 874 career games, you have to wonder if he could have had a better career without his drug problems.
7 Thrived: Bobby Clarke
Robert Earl Clarke, Bobby Clarke, was born in Flin Flon, Manitoba, a mining town with less than 5000 people. From there, the feisty captain was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers and his work ethic, competitiveness, and his refusal to loose made him an urban legend. The boy from Flin Flin captained the Philadelphia Flyers to two Stanley Cup Championships, Wayne Gretzky emulated his style, he had a peanut butter named after him, and he is in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
6 Fell Apart: Wade Belak
5 Thrived: Larry Robinson
When he made his debut for the Montreal Canadiens in 1972, he would change the game forever. He was massive, tough as nails, and yet could skate, shoot, and was offensively and defensively dominant. In many ways he brought the demise of the Broad Street Bullies because he hit back. He also epitomized the shut down, skilled, but nasty defenseman that was later imitated by the likes of Chris Pronger, Rob Blake, and Derian Hatcher. As a player, he won six Stanley Cups , two Norris Trophies, and the Conn Smythe.
4 Fell Apart: Derek Boogaard
3 Thrived: Mario Lemieux
2 Fell Apart: Bob Probert
Bob Probert is probably best known for his years as the most dominant fighter in the NHL for the Detroit Red Wings. But he was also a talented player, earned his way onto the All Star team, and was an assistant captain. But he was always troubled, and during his career he was involved in a motorcycle accident and arrested with cocaine. However, he also supported young kids in the community and bought them tickets to games. But in February 2003, Probert re-entered rehab and during the 2003 offseason, he retired. Probert died of a heart attack in 2010 while boating with his children, father-in-law, and mother-in-law.
1 Thrived: Eric Lindros
Deemed "The Next One" by hockey writers, Eric Lindros of the Philadelphia Flyers, was one of the most skilled, punishing, and greatest players in his era. His one timers beat goalies before they could move, his body checks rattled stadiums and players, and teams created "the trap" just to stop him. But there was always scrutiny, innuendos, rumors, and problems between his parents and the organization. It visibly affected Eric, and after a series of concussions, his game changed, he was traded, and he retired.
What makes his retirement so successful is that he left the game entirely and has found true happiness being a husband and father. No longer are reporters and fans questioning his injuries, toughness, and hounding him for explanations. No longer is the boy wonder being scrutinized and maligned. Instead, the boy is back in the man, he seems at peace, and he skates with his kids and enjoys his life. I think he probably hasn't ever been this happy, calm, and self secure.
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