Former King Patrick O'Sullivan Discusses His Book, Life, and Career
We talked about his childhood and mental health. This is a two part series.
Three weeks ago, I wrote about Patrick O'Sullivan's new book, titled "Breaking Away." Recently, I got the chance to speak with him at length about, well, everything.
Patrick O'Sullivan retired from hockey at the age of 27. He had gone from high profile draft prospect to bust to coveted young player to Edmonton Oiler, all before he landed in Finland for the final eight games of his professional hockey career.
Hockey kicked Patrick O'Sullivan around. Described as a "ruthless industry," Patrick left the game at a young age because he "hated it at that point." Even after escaping his father's grasp, Patrick found little solace in the NHL. While suffering from PTSD without really knowing what was going on, he bounced from organization to organization. Not one of his teams offered him any real help:
I wasn't asked by one team if I needed anything or could maybe use some help. The one time where I actually came to an organization - I was in Edmonton - and asked for help, it was basically like they ignored what I had said. That's just something that needs to change.
In a league with so much money invested in players, Patrick expressed extreme disbelief over their poor handling of things like mental health. He did, however, note that players do receive second and third chances for things like drug addiction these days, something that was not necessarily true in the past.
Even though organizations did a poor job of handling things like mental health, surely the players themselves were able to form a support system with each other, right? Not so fast:
Hockey's such a macho, old school mentality type of sport that there's not a lot of any of that going on, even amongst the players. Again, for the most part, guys are competing with other guys on their teams for jobs year in, year out. That's just not something that really gets brought up. If somebody's struggling with depression or anything like that, it's usually after the fact where the guy comes out and decides to tell his story through the media. Then, okay, other players are very supportive. Then the team decides it wants to contact you. Or then the union does to. That's kinda what happened with me. It's all too little too late. I don't need help now, I got help. I had to do that for myself two years ago when I stopped playing.
Patrick went on to explain that part of what he wanted for players was someone that they could talk to in confidence about their problems, without fear of the coach or the GM catching wind of things and using it against the player. This sounds a lot like what the Kings have put in place with Brantt Myhres, so I asked for Patrick's thoughts:
I have, yeah. I had read that they hired him to help with that stuff. Which is great, I mean that's probably something you're gonna see more teams do around the league. It's going on and it's easier to address it that way than to pretend it's not going on and hope for the best, that none of your players get into any serious trouble.
This portion of the interview lasts about 30 minutes. Below, I've attached the audio, and the full transcript can be found here.