Hockey’s Unnoticed Problem

[Just a small disclaimer… there may be disturbing details here. Also, if there is some false information in here, feel free to contact me!]

Hockey has a huge problem. No, not concussions, not PEDs, not fighting, not injuries, not goalie interference or offsides. We see hockey players as these superheroes. Guys with heart, role models, responsible, charitable people. It’s much different than a game like football, where people have accepted that these guys aren’t perfect (or anywhere near it). Still, the meaning of the game is at stake, after all, it isn’t just a game, it’s sport about teamwork, responsibility and more cheesy phrases to describe Superman. Every time something happens, we just forget about it, we block it out. Need proof?

First, sexual assault has been a problem in the NHL for a while:

Brian Sakic

Who? Joe Sakic’s brother, at 18,  a star for the Swift Current Broncos, along with Wade Smith, another player rarely named in the case, only mentioned mostly by his age at the time, 17, were accused of brutally raping a young girl in 1990. Only a few mentions of such the unacceptable crime were ever actually mentioned after a while. Sakic and Smith were quickly traded to the Tri-City Americans. Sakic was drafted, but never made the NHL, Smith was never drafted, not that his stats were worthy of drafting. Their charges were stayed, and the charges were flipped to the girl who accused them, being charged with mischief, but was found not guilty. The girl allegedly told her best friend she was contemplating suicide due to the rape, after that was convinced to contact police, and was told by her high school to drop the charges as they are ‘good boys’. The players admitted to having sex with her, but claimed it was consensual. They also admitted to the fact that ‘there was blood’, which I should mention the girl claimed she bled for 2 and a half days, that should’ve made it more suspicious on the player’s part to say the least, especially since they said she ‘begged for more’ rather than her account of ‘begging them to stop’. “We live in a wonderful country where you are innocent until proven guilty,” Jack Button, Capitals director of player personnel apparently said regarding the case.. “As far as I’m concerned . . . Brian Sakic is as clean as a whistle.” It’s disgusting how, with all the details, the signs, how it affected the girl, still, she was told to drop charges for the face of the players and team. It’s absolutely appalling, but unfortunately not the only one.

Dino Ciccarelli, Geoff Courtnall, Neil Sheehy and Scott Stevens

You probably recognize some of these names, why would they be on here you might ask. These 4 players were accused of rape by a 17 year old, who may have dated one of the players on the team. Police Lt. Reginald L. Smith once said that “there is some medical evidence of sexual activity” and that police investigators “have sufficient grounds to believe that a criminal offense did occur, according to The Washington Post, also in 1990.

[…] The incident began about 1 a.m., the girl said, when she was talking to a few players and Ciccarelli grabbed her by the arm and pulled her outside into an alley near the 3200 block of Prospect Street NW. Ciccarelli then forced the girl inside a limousine that was parked in the alley, she said.

One Caps player was in the limousine and the other two soon got in, the girl said. The four then participated in raping and sodomizing her, she told police. […]

That was a piece from an article by the Washington Post from when it happened. So there were signs of sexual activity, there were details, what happened? Well, though it was found that some sexual activity happened, it was determined that it was consensual.  Still, some players didn’t exactly admit to having sex in there, and most of the players were traded, or signed somewhere else. It was mostly swept under the rug, although it had some impact on Washington Capitals history, and a minimal, yet noticeable mark on their legacies, but that’s not enough for a crime that may have been committed.

Other Sexual Assault Crimes You’ve Never Heard, By Players You Didn’t Know Exist

University goalie Mark Yetman sentenced to 2 years for sexual assault, a better punishment, but, still was allowed to play in other leagues during his trial.

Dan Quinn allegedly raped a 19 year old woman in Mario Lemieux’s room, and claimed Lemieux was present, charges were found to be false, and were dropped. Still, the women in bed with Lemieux (there was a reason why he was present) claimed that the women in bed with Quinn had repeatedly said “No, no.”

Multiple incidents allegedly occurred in Swift Current around the time of the Sakic incident, most victims afraid to reveal the players involved for fear of their safety.

Mike Riberio allegedly sexually assaulting his children’s 18 year old nanny, which apparently got him bought out.

Cocaine, and other drugs, are another problem in the NHL. Yes, cocaine, the illegal drug cocaine. What am I talking about?

John Kordic

Kordic was one of the most feared NHL enforcers once. Soon, that changed. The “Goon” soon spiralled out of control. “It’s like John had a time bomb inside of him”, Pierre Page, former general manager of the Quebec Nordiques, his last NHL team, once said. John was addicted to cocaine, and downed that with alcohol, he used steroids, a lot. They day he died, he allegedly mixed his favourite drugs, cocaine, alcohol, and steroids, into what Sports Illustrated once called “a lethal speedball from hell”. His partner said:”He was claustrophobic, and he was scared of cops, So he was handcuffed and thrown into the back of an ambulance, with cops all around. His heart couldn’t take it. No one deserves to die that way.” A tragic death, in tragic circumstances. Kordic wasn’t even the only teammate he had that did drugs, even though he should serve as a caution tale, there is still a lot of drugs in hockey.

Mike Riberio

Mike Riberio had a relapse that allegedly ended his career. His story is a bit strange. Apparently, Riberio has been largely out of touch, with everyone. Alcohol issues largely sent his career off of a cliff. By last year, he’d apparently been separated from his wife and three children. “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.” His agent said at the time.

Derek Boogaard

Enforcers really have it tough in the NHL, they fight brutal fights for their job. The drugs used to help take away the pain contributed to Kordic’s death, above. Boogaard however didn’t die in part because of cocaine. He didn’t die because of heart problems. The beloved enforcer overdosed, on a mix of alcohol and painkillers. Boogaard had been prescribed many painkillers though out his pain-filled career. One day, the pain became too much. He died of an overdose, attributed to painkillers and alcohol.

Jere Karalahti

The Finnish defenseman was really good at what he did. The only problem was his off ice issues. When he was younger, the son of  a police officer ended up doing drugs, a lot of them, from marijuana to heroin, his off-ice issues was a noted trouble. He’d done some minor break ins with friends for the thrill. Soon, his drug filled lifestyle was found out about. Then a Kings prospect, he was arrested in Finland for possession of drugs. He changed from then, and a few years later, joined the Kings. After being traded though, he was suspended for drug related reasons, and spent the rest of his career in Europe.

Bryan Fogarty 

He was supposed to be a superstar, but that didn’t happen. Fogarty had noted drinking issues, but he could still play. Instead, he spent his time in and out of the minors. Soon, his drinking problems got the best of him. He never got to become a superstar. After numerous trades, bouncing in and out of minor leagues, the NHL, and Europe, plus being buddies with John Kordic, who suffered a familiar fate, and being arrested for a break in, Fogarty retired. Not a year later, he died due to an enlarged heart, referred to as natural causes.


Rumour has it Wade Redden, Andre Roy and Ray Emery and a few other 2007 Senators did a lot of cocaine, though, that has never been confirmed.

Viktor Loov (remember him?), then a Toronto Maple Leafs prospect said to a Swedish newspaper that there was a lot of cocaine in the NHL. He said he hadn’t seen it from his Marlies teammates, but that the attitude in North America was different, and also that the NHL wasn’t doing much. Later on, the Leafs allegedly met with police with concerns about it, but that has never been confirmed.

Clune, who is currently a Marlie in the AHL, once wrote an amazing piece about his struggles with drugs, among many other things, (read here). It’s a great piece that ends in him recovering from his addiction, but it also shows how prevalent drugs are in the NHL.

Kevin Steven’s addiction that got him in jail, and helping his career spiral.

Bob Probert was a known cocaine user.

Ian White has had drug trouble over the years.

Tim Horton died due to drunk driving.

Ryan O’Reilly drove drunk INTO a Tim Horton’s not too long ago.

Oh wait, there’s more!

Hockey players also have committed other crimes as well.

Slava Voynov

His story is something most of us know. Brutally beat his girlfriend, fled to Russia. Somehow the guy was still on Russia’s Olympic team, not to mention rumours of him coming back to the NHL are frequent. I honestly hope this guy doesn’t come back, but still, it’s an ongoing story.

Semyon Varlamov

The current Avs goalie also brutally beat his girlfriend, apparently kicking and stomping on her. Even with evidence of the woman being involved in a physical confrontation, the judge sided with Varlamov, and his version that the woman had been punching him, and he went into a bedroom and didn’t retaliate, and reportedly sustained marks on his upper body. Varlamov was even awarded over $100k for damages.

Dany Heatley

The former star player crashed his Ferrari in his third season, with teammate Dan Snyder in the passenger seat. Snyder, who had made his way to the NHL from being undrafted, and signing in the now defunct IHL, suffered serious injuries, and died. Heatley survived, and was given a light sentence. Heatley pleaded guilty to second-degree vehicular homicide, speeding, failing to maintain a lane, and driving too fast for conditions. He avoided jail time, and requested a trade. It fetched some negative reaction, but still, Snyder’s parents have said multiple times that they forgive Heatley. Still though, he took the life of a rising hockey player.

Mike Danton 

Danton was charged with conspiracy to murder and was sentenced to 7 years of jail, ending his NHL career. He had organized a murder to kill his father. After that, he made a comeback and played in many leagues in Europe.

Greg Carroll

Carroll, a former 1st rounder, had a promising career ahead of him, when he was arrested for drug related issues, which effectively ended his NHL career at only 23.


Nikolai Khabibulin’s DUI/Speeding charges.

Craig MacTavish was charged with vehicular homicide, spent a year in incarceration.

Tony Demers spent 7 years in jail due to manslaughter.

Those aren’t even close to all of the cases of these events. A lot of drug use, rape culture, and other things are swept under a rug seemingly the size of North America. No one in hockey seems to ever mention it. The only one of these you’ll probably hear at all would be the Voynov case, which is synonymous with Voynov (which doesn’t stop NHL teams from trying their best to sweep it under the rug and sign him), and the Varlamov case mentioned in a conversation about the Voynov case.

We cannot keep looking upon these players as saints. People that we want our children to be. Why is it that in other sports, such as football, it’s already a wide-known fact that the players are not perfect (and are very far from it in most cases), but in hockey, they’re the role models to a good portion of a generation. Why is it that most leagues, and the hockey community itself, try preserving the perfect hero reputation of hockey players. The only people it might benefit are those who profit off of the players playing hockey, who drive in a more family friendly audience, along with the standard sports audience. It also might get more parents to let their kids play the sport. It doesn’t benefit players however, as we can see in the tragic case of John Kordic. It also doesn’t benefit many other people, which you can see in a number of examples on here. We cannot pressure the players into a mold, nor can we brush off incidents that can massively affect people, and their families. No, hockey’s biggest problem isn’t head injuries. It isn’t offsides. It isn’t goalie interference. It isn’t fighting. Hockey’s biggest problem is a problem we all gave them, and image we blindly believe.

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