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Champions rise – Kevin Stevens’ story of addiction and recovery debuts in the US on Tuesday

Champions rise – Kevin Stevens’ story of addiction and recovery debuts in the US on Tuesday

By Kevin Flanagan

BSD Senior Staff Writer

This Tuesday, September 10th, the Sportsnet Canada Award Nominated film “Shattered” will be shown for the first time in public in the United States at The Regency Theatre in Arlington, Massachusetts.  The documentary that was filmed in 2018 and was shown on the Canadian sports outlet at the time, chronicles the well-known struggles with drugs that the one-time shoo-in for the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, two-time Stanley Cup Champion Kevin Stevens, has been dealing with over the better part of the last quarter-century.

Seasoned observers of the game of hockey need no introduction to Stevens.  The six-foot-three, 230-plus pound pride of Pembroke, Massachusetts was – along with the Boston Bruins’ Cam Neely – one of the two pioneers of the position that would define the term “power forward” in the NHL in the early 1990s and beyond.

After lighting up Hockey East at Boston College under coaching legend Len Ceglarski – a team that included future Hall of Famer Brian Leech and center Craig Janney (future Bruin who would feed Neely the puck a couple of times in his four seasons in Boston) – the hulking forward with wheels and the ability to snipe, made his mark as a professional in Pittsburgh with the Penguins in his first full NHL season in ’89-90.

Of course, while playing with the immortal Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr might be a bit of an advantage, Stevens was considered one of the prototypical wingers of the day – in a game at the time that was not for the timid, especially for guys not named Wayne Gretzky or Lemieux – and barring the bizarre turn his career and life took after he landed on the then Pittsburgh Civic Arena face-first on the ice after a collision with the New York Islanders Rich Pilon in a Game 7 playoff game in May of 1993, he might just be in the hallowed hall at 30 Yonge Street in the hockey hotbed.

Since then, Stevens’ struggle with substance abuse has been well chronicled by many who have told his story. Sportsnet’s Dan Robson piece is perhaps the best encapsulation of the tumultuous past two decades-plus of one of the most feared forwards in the NHL during the 1990s.

The event – that will be followed by a VIP reception at the Menotomy Grill on Mass Ave. in Arlington – is part of the Power Forward non-profit organization that Kevin, his sister Kelli Wilson and social entrepreneur Andrew Bernstein founded in 2017.  The monies that are raised from the function will help fund the group’s goal of “making a difference in the lives of people and communities who are affected by substance abuse through education, outreach and resources.”

The list of VIPs attending the event is essentially a who’s who of the entertainment and hockey world of Boston.  Comedian Lenny Clarke will emcee the event and will be joined by local comedy stars Tony V, Josh Dolan, and Dave Russo.

Also, attending will be actor Kevin “Chappy” Chapman, Dropkick Murphys’ lead singer Ken Casey, and producer and award-winning author David Wedge.  Massachusetts State Senator Cindy Friedman will also be on hand for the premier as well.

Hub hockey luminaries include Bruins general manager Don Sweeney, captain of the 1980 Gold Medal winning Team USA Mike Eruzione, Hall of Famers Brian Leech and Joe Mullen, Bob Sweeney, Ken Hodge Jr., Dan La Couture, Dave Jenson, Tim Sweeney, former Boston University head coach Jack Parker, former Boston College coach Steve Cedorchuk, Harvard University head coach Ted Donato and former Bruins great Derek Sanderson.

In a recent phone conversation, Stevens – who hosts the Crosscheck podcast focusing on substance abuse with Bernstein and executive producer Alex Bezanson – admitted that talking about his past problems with the media can become a bit tiresome.

“To be honest with you, I kind of get sick of talking about it sometimes,” said the former winger who posted four consecutive 40 or more goal seasons – twice eclipsing 50 – in the early to mid-90s and was part of the most potent offensive line ever assembled in the NHL regarding my line of questioning.

That’s quite reasonable given the fact that the story of his addiction has largely overshadowed his greatness on the ice with the simply overpowering Pens back in the day.

Nevertheless, the guy his teammates quickly began to call “Artie” because of the fact that he and his father Arthur’s gregarious personalities were so much alike, never grows tired of trying to provide assistance to those who have walked a similar path when it comes to the disease that is addiction.

Stevens, is also back in hockey again, working for the Penguins as a scout for a second time, something you can tell he savors just talking with him about rejoining the organization he loves.

Covering one of the hotbeds of college hockey that is New England, the Boston College product has the added bonus of getting paid to attend at least a couple of his son Luke’s games at Yale.  The 22-year-old forward is a senior at the Ivy League school and was drafted in the fifth round by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2015.

And while it is only human nature to be bitter about the stark contrasts of hands that life has dealt him, the 54-year-old still remains the humble guy with a hearty laugh, who didn’t fall far from his father’s tree.

“Kev, give me a call if you ever need anything, I’m always around,” is how he closed our call, even after I had told him I hated those Penguins teams like poison when they ripped the hearts out of Bruins fans back in the day.

Of course, he laughed and immediately told me what I already knew.  After Rosie Ruzicka’s overtime strike in Game 2 of the then Wales Conference Finals at the old Garden in 1991 that “barely crossed the goal line” him and his seemingly unstoppable teammates buried the Bruins over the next four games en route to the first of their back to back Cup-winning seasons.

While Tuesday’s outing might initially focus on Stevens missteps in the past, it is really a celebration of the future he has fought hard to create for himself.  Champions aren’t always the ones who have the most trophies or rings, oftentimes they are those among us who have seen the deepest depths of despair and fought their way back despite the enormous difficulties they have faced.

Kevin Stevens is doing just that.  There is no doubt that his fight will be one he will be involved with for the rest of his life.

That being said, I also have no doubt that somewhere up above the original Artie Stevens is wearing a smile – likely with his trademark cigar in his mouth – knowing that the young boy who would bruise him with pucks as he played goal in his boots on the ice he would tend to at the end of Jeanette Drive in Pembroke back in the day, is once again back in the game he loves.

Hockey is a better game with a healthy Kevin Stevens in it.  I’m not sure that anyone who has met the man would argue with that.

Tickets for Tuesday night’s event can be purchased at powerforward25.com

To contribute to the cause click here.

Follow Kevin Flanagan on Twitter @KevinMFlanagan.com.  Email at kflan@bostonsportsdesk.com.      

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