Edmonton Oilers forward Zack Kassian bravely detailed his road to sobriety, after battling substance abuse issues during the earlier portion of his career.
Kassian struggled with alcoholism, but worked hard to get sober, and spoke candidly about the process to former teammates Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa on The Kes & Juice Podcast. The trio played together with the Vancouver Canucks, where Kassian battled with alcohol.
“One thing I’ve learned through this whole process of getting clean is the only way you’re going to do it is if you want to do it yourself,” Kassian said, via Daniel Wagner of the Vancouver Courier.
“You’ve got to be willing to help yourself. Sadly, you guys tried to help multiple times, but it took, ultimately, a car accident to hit my rock bottom and to really think about what I was doing and how it was affecting the people around me, not only my career, but my family, my friends, and my teammates.
“You guys tried to put a stop to it, you guys tried to help the best way you could, and you planted the seed. There were days where I was thinking about what you guys said. You guys were two NHLers, played a long time, two leaders of our team, clearly you’re not just going to intervene for no reason.”
Kassian was traded from the Canucks to the Montreal Canadiens, but he never played for the latter organization. In October 2015, Kassian was involved in a car accident, where he broke his nose and fractured his foot. Kassian wasn’t driving the vehicle when it happened, but admitted he was under the influence of alcohol and cocaine when it happened.
He underwent and completed the NHL’s substance abuse program, but the Canadiens subsequently put him on waivers on the same day it was announced he had completed the program. Two weeks later, Kassian was traded to the Edmonton Oilers, where he’s played the best hockey of his career.
“Obviously the incident in Montreal was pretty humbling,” he said. “After that accident, my world came crumbling down. There’s no easy way to put it: I broke down, I cried a couple times, I didn’t think I was going to get back to the NHL, to be honest.
“I struck out with Buffalo, Vancouver didn’t want me, my last chance was in Montreal and I screwed that one up before the season even started. That was really a turning point and right then and there I knew something was wrong and I had to get better and I surrendered. That day changed my life.”
Kassian has been sober since and we admire his courage, bravery and dedication to improving his life.
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