Former NHL enforcer finds life difficult in retirement
Walter Peat, 64, is a loving dad.
His son is Stephen Peat, 36, a former NHL enforcer whose job was to beat people up. He did a pretty good job of it before retiring in 2006. But the toll has affected Stephen to the point where his dad is afraid he will become another NHL enforcer dead by the age of 50.
In the last six years Bob Probert, Derek Boogaard, Todd Ewen, Rick Rypien, Steve Montador and Wade Belak have died before the age of 50. There is plenty of media coverage about NFL players who suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease which is caused by pops to the head.
There isn’t as much about the NHL tough guys, some of whom took their own lives.
The New York Times visited Peat in his hometown of Vancouver and found a man that has been unable to keep a steady job, suffers from headaches, gets into bar fights and is suffering from the trauma that could be caused by CTE.
Last year Stephen accidently burned his house down when a blow torch caused severe damage. He was arrested later and charged with arson. Witnesses said they saw him set fire to the house, a charge that Peat denies. Now he oversees construction of a two-story home with his dad.
“Part of me was like, I want to sit and burn with this house,” Peat told the Times. “Because I knew the consequences of doing something like that, and embarrassing myself like that. It wasn’t my first tragedy in life, you know?”
His father said later: “That’s how he is. He can’t focus. He’ll be cooking something, will answer the phone and walk away. I’m like ‘Stephen, you left the stove on.”
He got lost going to a recreation center and pinned himself under a car because he did not set the jack the correct way. Constant headaches sometimes force Peat to sit in quiet rooms with the lights turned off.
“I can’t sleep on my right side, Peat told the Times. “If I do, it feels like someone who weighs 200 pounds is standing on my face.” Peat said the pain is mostly on his left side because he was a right-handed boxer.
“That’s where all of my pain is,” he said. “So that’s my uneducated guess. What other blows have I taken?”
He protected players like Jaromir Jagr, Alex Ovechkin, and Adam Oates and battled some of the best in a list that includes Donald Brashear and Jody Shelley. But a broken hand, and neck and pelvis injuries ended his career. After the NHL Peat worked odd jobs, including as a bouncer.
Now he uses prescription pills, including Percocet, to battle the pain. He went through the NHL substance abuse program but the father said the league needs to find the source of pain. His son suffers every day.
“Why are you sending me to rehab again?” Stephen Peat said. “I was just trying to find an answer to my pain.”
Former NHL players brought up a class action suit that accuses the league of hiding information about concussions. It is similar to the legal action that NFL players have brought against the league. The dad stands by his son, who many believe to be a criminal and bad person.
But Walter stands by his son to the point that he wrote an email to the New York Times.
“Right now it seems like a battle we are losing, but I will spend the rest of my life standing up for my son, as I believe he is a good young man who needs help. Very sad that he has to resort to painkillers, alcohol and whatever means he can find to deal with his pain.”