PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Former Penguins forward Kevin Stevens put his body on the line for fifteen seasons in the NHL, but as he told a crowd Tuesday at PPG Paints Arena, it was his time off the ice that he wants to talk about.
Hockey fans loved Stevens for his toughness and goal-scoring and teammates loved his fierce loyalty, but a battle with drugs took all of that away.
Stevens says it was one 30-second decision that nearly destroyed his life.
“If you would have asked any one of my teammates or anything, I wouldn’t have ever put anything in front of hockey, ever. Ever,” he said. “But when I hit this thing, it started changing my thought process. It’s weird because I activated this thing in my head that I didn’t know I had.”
Cocaine given to him by a woman in a nightclub took one of hockey’s best talents down the road to addiction.
“[I was] 28 years old. Never smoked pot. Never did anything. Drank. Somebody handed me something in New York City. I was out with the guys, and I didn’t even really know,” Stevens said. “I did it and from that point, it’s not like I chased it at that point, but it gradually came into my life.”
As the drugs took over, everything started slipping away: his hockey skill, his marriage, his kids. But he couldn’t care enough to stay clean.
“I was just a hockey player, but I was an addict and I had all those losses. I didn’t get sober,” Stevens said. “For some reason this time, I did. Not really sure, but it worked.”
That was 22 months ago, and one of Mario Lemieux’s linemates has returned to Pittsburgh to talk about something more important than old hockey stories.
“I should have had 16 or 17 great years, could have been in the Hall of Fame,” Stevens said. “You know, I was scoring 50 goals, I could have had a lot different life, you know? But to get better for me, I have to accept what happened and move forward, live day to day. I can’t live in the rearview mirror all the time.”
Stevens and his sister formed the Power Forward Foundation. They are now paired with Familylinks. Their purpose: do everything they can to fight the war on addiction.
“Two are better than one in anything, especially in this thing, you know? We are trying to battle this epidemic out there, and the two of us maybe together can make a difference out here in Pittsburgh,” Stevens said.