Was it worth it?
That’s one of the many questions Nick Boynton asks in his emotional article published in The Players’ Tribune on Wednesday. And it becomes quickly clear that it wasn’t.
“It’s tough to think about sometimes, to be honest, because I love the game of hockey. Literally all I wanted to do in life — from the time I was super little and just trying to keep my balance out on the frozen pond in the backyard — was play in the NHL,” Boynton wrote, calling his life after hockey “a living hell.”
“When I sit back and really think about it honestly, I usually come to the conclusion that hockey hasn’t been a good thing for me overall. And the money? Well, that can only get you so far, you know what I mean? And it certainly can’t fix your brain,” he continued.
The article has been making the rounds online since its release, and for good reason. Boynton’s raw, honest words shed light on the darkness he experienced throughout his 11-year career — of countless concussions, self-medicating, and cries for help that only resulted in his being traded out of town — and the difficulties he has endured in the years following his retirement in 2011.
“I honestly wish I would’ve retired when I was 26 or 27, even before I won a Stanley Cup. And I wish I could go back to that time and have a redo,” wrote Boynton, who won the Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010. “They can scratch my name off that cup, and I’d hand my ring back in right now if I could go back and make it so that I wouldn’t have had to experience all this pain and sorrow and anger and sadness.
“I’d make that tradeoff in a heartbeat.”
One of the most telling parts of Boynton’s article is when he opens up about his kids, particularly his hockey-obsessed three-year-old son:
“I cannot, in good conscience, let him play the game of ice hockey until something changes and we start looking out for our players by taking the problems of head hits and concussions — and their potential impact on mental health — more seriously,” he wrote.
If you haven’t read the article in its entirety, you really must. You can find it here.