In hockey, a state of denial

If Derek Boogaard’s story wasn’t enough to make hockey fans think again about their glorification of hockey’s “enforcers,” it’s hard to imagine that Stephen Peat’s will be.

Peat, a retired National Hockey League fighter, has been suffering the symptoms of CTE, the apparent fallout from a career giving the fans what they want: the occasional good fight on the ice.

He’s been addicted, charged with arson, and is living on the street now, according to his father, who has been telling his story with the help of John Branch of the New York Times.

Most of it has fallen on deaf ears. So, likely, too, will the exchange of text messages between Branch and Walter Peat, which were published Tuesday morning, including this one when Branch asked if it would be OK to publish the messages.

Hi John

Tks for replying. Not sure, but the fact Stephen is deteriorating fast, living on the street, has pretty much zero help from NHL, and my relationship with him had gone south. With his condition, he needs professional help, as I would suggest his mind set has gone off the rails.

I made arrangements for him to stay at my brothers, and both brothers are pretty much handicap, but ended up being removed by the police for threats, etc. his mind leaves him lost at times. Confused, aggressive, and I will be honest, he scares the shit out of me, and for that matter my brothers. It saddens me to seem helpless as Stephen has accused me of interfering in his affairs.

I have no idea how to tell this horror story, but I am sure there are many living this nightmare. I am thinking that this may all come out one day, but my biggest fear is my son will not be with us, as he even talks about suicide at times. every time I get an email or an unknown number calling me, about him, I fear the worst news.

The legal system, and the medical system hear only wants to paint him as a criminal or a drug addict. I would suggest both may be the case, as his situation has forced him to do what ever it takes to relieve the pain, anxiety etc, from the headaches.

Again, I am a normal person who loves hockey, but to see what the game has become, and the end result of the violence allowed on the ice. The worst is the fact, that most sports teams are still in the dark as far as recognizing the health risks associated with many sports. The rule book must be re:written.

Right now, I am at a loss of what to do, and who to turn to for help. Many night, I lose countless hours of sleep, thinking of what will happen, and am I doing the right thing. There are so many people who prefer to put a paper bag over their head and ignore the fact that Stephen or so many players suffer from these injuries. But, the injuries just don’t stop there, as the emotional, financial, and in some cases, physical injuries suffered by family members. I am living the nightmare of the movie “Concussion”,

I honestly have no idea where to take this, other that keep trying to tell the story, and maybe others won’t feel so lonely, like they are on a deserted island.

He is so mad at me, that it has come to yelling at me, making threats, etc, as really, I was/am the only person left in his life trying to help, as many just look at him, as just another person on the the street, and bum dumpster diving for food.

John, I am open to anything that may bring this into into the open, so people can see what hockey is breeding. And where many of it’s players end up. it is so sad that Stephen had his own cheering section in Washington, but now, many of his fans have now idea or care what he is doing.



  • Greg W

    I’ll admit that I was a fan of enforcers and saw their role as an extension of the “policing of the game”. That changed as I got older and as I saw the debilitating effect enforcing and boxing on ice has taken on those players.

    I shudder to think about how my own voice in the chorus of cheers for Boogaard’s “specialty” helped contribute to his downfall.

    • I miss old school hockey. My hero growing up, Bobby Orr, didn’t need an enforcer.

      • wjc

        Terry O’Reilly?

        • Didn’t really play with Orr much and I don’t think of him as an enforcer. Clearly he was a fighter. But, then again, all the players back then had to take care of themselves.

          • wjc

            Of course, enforcers didn’t have to play with another player very much. They just had to come into a game when the target of their wrath hit the ice. The rest was just taking care of business. Nasty.

          • I think Orr was a tougher fight than O’Reilly. Bobby just didn’t need the help. Bobby was a god. Still is.

          • KTFoley

            Yeah, but if the lineups shifted to players on Bobby Orr’s level, the NHL wouldn’t cover 31 teams, an 82-game schedule and a regular season stretching 7 months followed by the eternity of playoffs.

            I’d posit the commercial push to make as much money from as many games (and rinks!) as possible may deter the owners from focusing on skilled players. That is, until the cost of injured skaters off the roster hits the balance sheet the same way injured players on the roster.

          • I don’t watch much hockey anymore, mostly because it’s all on cable and I just learned to live without it. The early ’70s were a golden time. Especially in Boston.

          • KTFoley

            Yep, I was growing up in Connecticut then amidst Rangers fans, my brother’s farflung games and an enduring misconception that Elton John’s Philadelphia Freedom was the Flyers’ new anthem.

            But even we knew Bobby Orr was the best of the best.

      • Greg W

        Was the unnecessary need to protect Gretzky to blame? Without the belief that Gretz couldn’t defend himself, there wouldn’t be a role for a cement-head like McSorley.

  • wjc

    I enjoyed hockey in the late-60s and 70s, but I’d like to think that I have evolved since then.

    • I’ve always enjoyed the game of hockey and still play at age 54.

      The hockey fights, not so much.

      • Bob Sinclair

        I knew there was a reason I like you so much. (other than the fact you are witty and have AEN as your avatar)

  • fromthesidelines21

    As the parent of an 11 year old player I’m glad the development model promoted by USA hockey and Minnesota hockey promotes higher skill play and not pure physicality. It looks like Canada will be following suit in the coming years and you will see less and less of “fighting is part of the game” mindset. It’s already started as the stats show

    • Bob Sinclair

      I thought Sean McIndoe called it pretty good last week in his “Grab Bag” section entitled “The NHL Actually Got Something Right…Maybe…Depending on Your Perspective”. []