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Former NHLer Myhres working with LAKHSHL to address substance abuse

 

Los Angeles Kings HeadshotsBrantt Myhres had a promising NHL career underway and appeared to have everything going for him.

That was until he was hit with his first suspension for substance abuse, an occurrence that he would revisit three more times before eventually receiving a lifetime ban from the league.

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A right wing who had been selected by Tampa Bay in the fifth round of the 1992 NHL Draft, he possessed size, speed and potential, yet bounced around to five teams and never played more than 47 games in any of his seven seasons in the league. His addiction issues eventually outweighed his immense talent in hockey skates.

Now sober for more than nine years, Myhres has worked with the L.A. Kings since 2015 as the team’s player assistance director – addressing issues from substance abuse to domestic violence and gambling – and has recently taken on a similar role with the L.A. Kings High School Hockey League (LAKHSHL). Myhres will visit with many of the league’s teams, talking to players and parents about the dangers of substance abuse, how to spot the warning signs and how to get help.

“As the Kings player assistance director, his role is to be essentially a life coach and provide advice for players,” said Emma Tani, the Kings’ coordinator of league and rinks, hockey development. “Our goal is to have Brantt provide the same services for our high school players, who we feel are at a pivotal point in their lives – where the decisions they make can have a dramatic impact on their futures.”

Myhres entered a rehabilitation program shortly after being banned from the NHL, and then went back to school to study substance abuse behavioral health. He developed a program to address substance abuse issues that he presented to the league and the NHLPA. With the memories of his issues as a player still fresh in many minds, he didn’t get much traction on his effort, but Kings general manager Dean Lombardi reached out to him in 2015 and he jumped at the chance to turn his negative experiences and his education into a positive for players who may be dealing with the same problems he dealt with during his career.

“My role has been to lend support to anyone in the organization that may feel they need to address issues – whether it’s addiction, depression or anything else,” Myhres said. “Based on my experiences, I was able to see what worked and what didn’t. I think having a former player in this role, it lends a lot more merit to what you’re talking about with these guys about than if someone who has never skated tried to reach out to them. There’s a bit of a respect factor because you have been in their shoes before.”

Myhres has already addressed two teams in the LAKHSHL. In each session, he first spoke to the players and then to their parents, and answered plenty of questions. He said his goal with the high school league is mostly to address prevention strategies.

“Kids can find themselves at a crossroads at that age,” he said. “There can be a lot of peer pressure, and it can be difficult to choose the right path. Drugs are everywhere, and they’re easy to get, so it’s important to bring awareness to that and to be able to provide a real-life example of what can happen when you get caught up with the wrong people and when you don’t reach out for help.”

Myhres said he gave each player and parent his business card with an open invitation to contact him any time as a resource if issues arise.

“If the window of willingness is open just a little bit, then we can work on a solution,” Myhres said. “My issues started when I was 16 and playing in the Western Hockey League. At the time, it was taboo to tell anyone you had a problem – it’s my goal to break that stigma. If I can reach even one kid in each room, I consider my efforts a success.”

— Greg Ball

(Dec. 1, 2017)