Kurt Walker wants to help.
The former Toronto Maple Leafs enforcer, who had 17 surgeries in his career and went through the NHL’s substance-abuse and behavioural-health program, has followed the recent deaths of Rick Rypien and Derek Boogaard and believes there are former players who could help today’s NHLers.
“We’d be the perfect guys to talk to,” said Walker, 57, who admitted he was on a destructive path with medication and painkillers. “We’ve been through it all. Hockey players are good guys. You’d never get a player who’d say no if he was asked to help. But [the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association]don’t come to us with anything.”
Clint Malarchuk, who suffered from depression during his time as an NHL goalie, had tried to get a message to Rypien this past season so they could talk confidentially. “I could have been somebody he trusted,” Malarchuk said.
Rypien played parts of six seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, and general manager Mike Gillis acknowledged the team and the league “had all the resources we could use. At the end of the day, it wasn’t enough.”
The NHL and NHLPA have said they’ll review their programs to see if there is any way to improve on them. Gillis said it was time to be more open about mental health concerns. “I know [Rypien]wanted that to make sure we can do more for someone else,” Gillis said.