When you’re a professional hockey player in the NHL, you feel like you’re unstoppable and untouchable. You’re getting paid for doing something you love, you can get any girl you want, you’re famous and on top of the world. Even so, that doesn’t mean that these superstars don’t have to deal with the same pitfalls as the rest of us.
These men may have all had a lot of money at some point, but they lost it due to many different things, such as bad investments, poor financial decisions, swindling agents or financial advisors, and luxurious purchases. Some lost a lot more than just money, sinking into depression, addictions, or violent fits of rage. A few of these NHL stars were able to turn their monetary issues into positive outcomes, careers, and lifestyles. Others weren’t so fortunate, and their problems lead to difficulties they couldn’t overcome, and sometimes these drawbacks even resulted in death.
It’s fair to say that when you reach this level of superstardom, you need to be cautious about your finances as well as your wellbeing. These are 15 NHL stars who lost everything, of which only some were able to recover.
15 Doug Harvey
Doug Harvey is considered one of best defensemen of all time. Unfortunately, after his time in the NHL came to a close, Harvey dealt with alcoholism until it finally took his life. He died from cirrhosis of the liver. He also struggled with bipolar disorder, and his in final years the hockey legend was forced to live in a train car instead of a house, because he was broke. Harvey won the Norris Trophy seven times, and was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1973, but that didn’t stop his addiction from draining his bank account and taking over his life.
14 Derek Sanderson
Derek Sanderson acquired a contract for $2.6 million in the 1970s, which was a substantial amount of money for a hockey player to receive in that day. He was paid the full amount up front, and spent all of it almost immediately. Sanderson recklessly spent his millions on drugs, alcohol, bad investments and extravagant purchases. Opportunely, there was a positive outcome from all of this, Sanderson sobered up and decided to become a financial adviser, so that he could aid people in money matters and insure they don’t make the same mistakes he did.
13 Ray Whitney
Ray Whitney, better known as “The Wizard”, played in the NHL for twenty-two years. He was an underrated but smart player; regrettably Whitney wasn’t so smart off the ice. He was one of the eighteen players that invested with Len Barrie, past owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning, on a golf resort deal that went south. Whitney ended up losing $3 million; his was one of the biggest investments made in the deal. A lot of hockey players have lost considerable amounts of money due to business ventures that have gone badly.
12 Mike Vernon
Mike Vernon was also screwed-over in Len Barrie’s golf resort investment. His loss was the biggest out of all eighteen players who were a part of it. He lost $9.6 million because of the project, an amount of money he couldn’t afford to lose. He was a goalie in the NHL for twenty years, but $9.6 million was a good percentage of his total earnings. Vernon took the biggest hit when it came to the failed business endeavor, and it’s safe to say he won’t be able to look at golf the same way again.
11 Mike Modano
Mike Modano is yet another hockey star that lost massive amounts of money due to bad investments. Halfway through his twenty-one year career, Modano felt like it was time to invest his earnings, even though he was always frugal and cautious with his money. He decided to invest in the entertainment industry and sadly ended up losing around $4 million. Luckily Modano bounced back and remained extremely careful with his millions for the rest of his career, never choosing to invest again. Now Modano is considered a very financially practical and knowledgeable guy, even though he made a big mistake with his money back in the day.
10 Chris Nilan
Chris Nilan was given the name “Knuckles” because he was a fighter on the ice. Off the ice, he was fighting a different kind of fight, his ongoing addictions to alcohol and drugs. He spent most of his earnings from the NHL on illegal substances and booze. Sadly, this is not an uncommon story in the NHL. A lot of players struggle with addiction to the point where it takes over their careers and their lives. Nilan lost most of his money and even resorted to shoplifting in 2009. He was caught trying to steal a bathing suit. Nilan now speaks out about issues surrounding addiction on his radio show, based in Montreal.
9 Steve Durbano
Steve Dubano, or “Mental Case”, chose to pursue a different kind of career after his time with the NHL ended. Durbano became involved with prostitution and drug trafficking. He was thrown in jail for seven years for trying to bring $500,000 worth of cocaine into Canada. He served his time and was released but ended up back in the slammer when he was caught trying to get an undercover cop to be a part of his illegal prostitution ring. His toughness and angry outbursts were a positive thing when he was playing hockey, but in the outside world it only caused him trouble.
8 Theo Fleury
Theo Fleury’s best selling book, Playing With Fire, documents his issues with drug and alcohol abuse. He also struggled with a gambling addiction that made him lose not only his money, but also the chance to have a bigger and brighter career in the NHL. Fleury got to such a low point, he even thought seriously about committing suicide. But he faced his issues head on, and attempted a brief hockey comeback. It may not have panned out for Fleury in the long run, but it helped him overcome his issues and addictions.
7 Sergei Fedorov
Sergei Feforov was forced to join the Kontinental Hockey League after a prior business partner embezzled almost $60 million from the hockey player. Fedorov not only stepped down from a career in the NHL, but also had to foreclose his luxurious homes and lose his extravagant cars. He stated that his decision to play in the KHL was to be able to spend more time with his sons, who all play in the Kontinental Hockey League, but in reality Fedorov needed to play in order to make back some of the millions he lost.
6 Bryan Trottier
Bryan Trottier is ranked sixteeth in all time regular season points, he played for eighteen years in the NHL, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1997, and has his name on the coveted Stanley Cup six times. Unfortunately, his life after hockey didn’t go so smoothly. Trottier tried and failed to open up an ice-rink business, which resulted in him having to file for bankruptcy. Trottier turned his attention back to the NHL, and now has a successful career as the assistant coach for the Buffalo Sabers.
5 Brian Spencer
Brian Spencer, or “Spinner”, has one of the saddest stories in the NHL. It all started when his father was upset that the local television station wasn’t playing Spencer’s game. His father drove over to the station and tried to get them to showcase the game. He ended up holding them hostage and the RCMP had to get involved. The night ended with the RCMP killing Spencer’s father, because they feared he was going to kill the workers at the station. Spencer retired from the NHL not long after, descended into a black hole of depression, drugs, violence, and even an attempted murder charge. He was ultimately killed during a drug robbery.
4 Dany Heatley
In 2012, Dany Heatley’s financial advisor at the time, Stacey McAlpine, made around $4 million in unofficial and unlawful withdrawals from Heatley’s accounts. Heatley sued McAlpine for $11 million, and it was discovered that she also had a lawsuit filed against her from fellow NHL player Chris Phillips, for $7.5 millions. Phillips had the same claims as Heatley. McAlpine was fired from her job and will probably never be able to advise anyone on their finances ever again. Unfortunately this happens to a lot of professional athletes, their financial advisors screw them out of a lot of money if they’re not paying close enough attention to their bank account.
3 Sergei Gonchar
Sergei Gonchar was one of the nineteen NHL players that were swindled in a $25 million investment to develop on a property in Mexico. The failed deal was supposed to build condos, hotels, and golf courses on the property. It’s rumored that one of the partners on the deal, Ken Jowdy, a real estate investor, took the $25 million and spent it on strippers and hookers. All nineteen NHL players involved, including Sergei Gonchar, filled a lawsuit again Jowdy and were never able to look at Mexico the same way again.
2 Jack Johnson
If there's one thing we learned from this list, is that professional hockey players are prone to trusting the wrong people with their money. Or in Jack Johnson’s case, trusting his parents with his money. His parents made awful decisions regarding his finances, which resulted in Johnson having to file for bankruptcy. He wanted to focus on his career and not have to worry about money matters, so he asked his parents to deal with his financials, a decision he would come to regret. He even stated that he has trusted the wrong people. Thanks a lot, Mom and Dad.
1 Bobby Orr
Even legends like Bobby Orr have to deal with financial strain. Orr’s previous agent, the infamous Alan Eagleson, caused the hockey superstar to lose tons of money and even come close to bankruptcy. Orr owed hundreds of thousands in legal fees and taxes because of his sketchy agent. This mismanagement propelled Orr to get involved in a career as an agent, it’s now his job to make sure other players don’t succumb to the same fate he did back in the day. Of course “Number Four” would be able to turn something so devastating into such a success story.
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