DFO Rundown: Former NHLer Brantt Myhres discusses addiction in book “Pain Killer”

On Friday, Jason Gregor and Frank Seravalli welcomed former NHL heavyweight Brantt Myhres to the DFO Rundown to discuss his new book, “Pain Killer.”

Drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the fifth round of the 1992 draft, the Edmonton-born Myhres went on to play 154 games at the NHL level, accumulating a whopping 687 penalty minutes in the process.

In 2006, Myhres was banned from the NHL for life after failing the fourth drug test of his career. This is Myhres’ story of what happened and how he pulled himself out of it.

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Here’s an excerpt from early on in the interview…

GREGOR: This book is very open and honest about your battle with addiction, so we have to go back to the start. You grew up in Alberta, you played in the Western Hockey League, you were a tough guy, and you were also a skilled player. Your last year of junior you were over a point-per-game guy. But you kind of made your way to the NHL as a tough guy and that’s a tough role.

Did you have to drink or do drugs to do the job? Or was that not related to the base of your addiction?

MYHRES: It had a part to play for sure. My first fight was against a goalie at the Portland Winter Hawks camp. He was a back-up goalie. I was 15. We went out to centre ice, he left his blocker on the bench and his helmet and everything and there I am, squaring off with a goalie. As a 15-year-old, that’s traumatic.

Even though I did well in the fight, that set me up for my 16-year-old year. My dad told me that I had to lead the league as a 16-year-old in fighting majors. So I did. It started from there.

I didn’t get into much alcohol because I was 16 playing in Portland and I couldn’t get into a bar or anything. But when I got traded to Lethbridge, that all changed the next year. I found that when I would go out the night before a game or after a game, my head quieted down.

As a 17-year-old, my dad said you led the league as a 16-year-old, now you have to lead the whole Canadian Hockey League in fighting majors if you want to get drafted. So I did that. I had 40-some fights as a 17-year-old.

I think it started really early. And if you were to take away alcohol, from me at the age of 17, and told me to get sober, I would have quit hockey.

SERAVALLI: Why do you say that?

MYHRES: I couldn’t have done that role without medicating. There’s no way. My brain isn’t even developed and here I am as a 17-year-old trying to deal with fighting in front of thousands of people. Fist fighting with bare knuckles.

Not only once, but I can fight three times a night, and then we’re going into Saskatoon and Prince Alberta on Friday and Saturday. It never ended. It would have been too overwhelming for me not to reward myself with partying or whatever you want to call it after the game.

SERAVALLI: How accessable was alcohol in junior hockey? How did you make your way to drugs after that?

MYHRES: At around 4:00 PM after school ended, we would head out to the Boston Pizza Lounge in Lethbridge and we would go to a country bar at around 7:00 PM. So of course alcohol was easy to get.

My first experience with cocaine, was when I went to a place called Peach Fest, which was a festival in the Okanagan. I was at a bar and one of my good friends says ‘hey, come into the bathroom’ and I went in and he took me into the stall and he pulls out this white stuff. He rolled up a dollar bill and he said ‘snort this’ and I said ‘what is it’ and he said ‘you don’t need to worry about what it is.’

So I did and I’ll never forget, as I walk back out to the dance floor, I felt like that scene in Saturday Night Fever where he’s walking out and he’s got his hand in the air and he’s pointing and he’s dancing. It was the most incredible feeling I’ve ever had in my life. I was laughing, dancing, up until 6:00 in the morning. And I said ‘wow, if this is what this makes me feel like, this is another thing I’m never going to give up.

And here’s where the entire conversation can be heard…