This is a great story we wanted to share!
Growing up in Brantford, Ontario in a family of hockey players, I always had the goal of playing professional and the long-term dream of playing in the NHL.
But unlike most guys, I didn’t get drafted into the OHL or NHL and realized that if I wanted to make it, I’d have to take the hard road and literally fight my way there.
As a result, I probably fought at least 20-30 times per season and quickly became known as one of the tough hockey players in every league I played in.
Embracing my role as an enforcer, I signed my first pro contract in 2003 with the San Diego Gulls and worked my way up to signing my first NHL contract with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2006. My dream came true.
I played up until last year (2019) in leagues all over the world (including the NHL, AHL & KHL) fighting close to 300 times. I took a lot of pride in protecting my teammates and being able to play my sport professionally. I did all of this without knowing the long-term health consequences of concussions.
I dealt with the ups and downs that came with 16-year of playing pro hockey but started to notice that my down days were getting darker and darker towards the end of my career. I also started to realize that my concussions were likely the root cause of my mental struggles.
I probably had at least 15 concussions with 8 documented after 2007 and had seen a number of concussion specialists with no real answers. Although I wasn’t in a good place, I found myself hanging on to hockey and scared about losing the structure that the sport gave me.
As a result, I began to self medicate, isolate myself from friends/family, and wasn’t proud of the person I was becoming. I was constantly depressed, and I never knew what person I was going to wake up as. It was incredibly hard for the people around me and it led to lost relationships, which led me to isolating even more.
I didn’t want to be around anyone, and wouldn’t make plans because I knew I wouldn’t go through with them. It was a nightmare for both myself and the people around me.
It got to the point where I didn’t care anymore and didn’t want to continue living life feeling the way I was. All I wanted was for my mind to work again and knew I couldn’t do it on my own, yet I didn’t have the courage to ask for help.
I was lucky enough to have a best friend and girlfriend that couldn’t watch me suffer any longer, and they eventually stepped in. Without them, I honestly don’t think I’d be here right now.
With their support, I’ve made a number of changes that have had a positive impact on my mental health. It’s been a process, but I finally feel like I’ve turned the corner and that I’ve got my life back.
Working out again and prioritizing my nutrition has helped a lot. I’m a firm believer that moving your body and putting good food into it will positively change your ways of thinking. I connected with a trainer (Primitive Patterns) who has helped me stay accountable with these things and has pushed me in positive ways that I haven’t been in years.
Since I’m not playing hockey anymore, creating structure and routine around my wellness has been really beneficial. Every morning I wake up, drink water with lemon, take my supplements, do some gratitude journaling and then exercise. I’ve noticed a huge shift in my mindset and mood by doing this, and its an easy way to help me get the ball rolling each day.
Surrounding myself with positive people who genuinely care has also made a big difference. Being able to express the way I feel or ask for help gives me peace of mind and makes me feel like I’m not alone. Simply texting people back or just saying “hi” also goes a long way, and helps me keep my mind mentally sharp.
I’ve also reached out to my old teammate, Riley Cote, and he’s been a positive influence in my turnaround. Not only is he part of my support system, but he owns a CBD company (BodyChek Wellness) and supplementing with that has been a game-changer. It helps me sleep, keeps me calm, and helps relieve anxiety. With his guidance, I’ve also been micro-dosing with psilocybin and have seen a number of positive changes.
Finally, I’ve recently seen some doctors and got some bloodwork done that connected the dots between my concussions and the way I was feeling. This gives me additional peace of mind knowing what the underlying problems are and that they can be fixed.
I feel great knowing that I have the right people, doctors, and resources to help me on dark days or when I’m feeling off. I now know that I can live a good life despite all of my head trauma, depression, and everything that I’ve been through.
People always ask me if I’d go back and play hockey/fight again and the answer is yes every single time. I got to play a game I love for a living, met some of my best friends, and became the man I am today. I don’t blame anyone or anything for what I’ve been through, and even though I didn’t know much about concussions, I knew what I was getting myself into as an enforcer.
My advice to anyone is not to take your concussions or mental health lightly. It’s important to be educated on these issues, to create a good support system, and to let someone know if you are struggling.
Speaking up is a sign of strength rather than weakness, and my hope is that by sharing my story, people will realize it’s really the “tough” thing to do.
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