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Sports This Week: Therien writes of hockey and alcohol

If you were a fan of the skilled defenceman, or a Flyers fan, the background will be relished.
A new book by former NHLer Chris Therien is about much more than hockey.

YORKTON - “Although it happened more than 10 years ago, I remember the moment like it was yesterday,” writes Chris Therien to open his recently released bio ‘Road to Redemption’ from Triumph Books.

“Life-changing events have a way of staying fresh in your memory and this one will never fade from mine. Much of my adult life had been spent secretly battling a silent demon: one shared by millions of people, but each struggle unique in its own way.

“It took an act as simple as cleaning an upstairs closet for me to come to grips with a harsh reality.

“I was an alcoholic.

“While rummaging through clothes and the like, I came upon a shoe with a water bottle jammed inside it. Only the bottle wasn’t half-filled with water.

“It was vodka.

“I stared at the bottle for a moment, then gulped down its contents and threw the bottle in the trash.

“There are two birthdates in my life: The first, December 14, 1971, when I officially entered this world and the second, February 7, 2011—the day of the infamous shoe incident—when I became the person I truly believe I was meant to be.”

The opening tells you much about the book and its writer.

To start you expect he has found his path to deal with the alcoholism, or it is unlikely he would be telling his story so openly.

Secondly, you know immediately Therien is a man with a level of intestinal fortitude. While I have not faced the demon of addiction personally I am confident it is not an easy battle, and those dealing with it need an inner strength just to stop and ask for help, let alone the bumps along the road to recovery.

And finally, the opening paragraphs suggested a good read to follow.

On this last one, the book is a bit of a slow starter unfortunately. Therien spends a 100-plus pages just growing up and moving through hockey to finally make the NHL with Philadelphia in the 1994-95 season.

If you were a fan of the skilled defenceman, or a Flyers fan, that background will be relished. Admittedly, I was neither, and given it was nearly one-third of the book it dragged a tad.

But, within that 100 pages were the first hints that Therien was maybe a bit more excessive as a partier and drinker than teammates along the way.

In the end that is what makes ‘Road to Redemption’ worth adding to your sports collection, the thread through the book that relates Therien’s alcoholism and his battle to deal with it.

As noted at “in Philadelphia Flyers orange and black, Chris Therien cut an imposing figure on the ice, a stalwart physical presence for over a decade in the NHL. (He played 764 regular season games in the NHL). But by the end of his playing career, he was concealing a much greater battle with alcoholism which bled into his professional and family life.”

In an interview with Sports This Week Therien said the key to recovery can be the willingness to ask for help, but that does take some courage.

“To me that’s the hardest part of it,” he said, adding its hard to admit to oneself you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, and harder still to share that with someone else and asking for help.

As for the opening to the book Therien said it truly was something of an awakening.

By the time he found the vodka in a long-forgotten shoe he was already in recovery, but the drinking of that mouthful of booze really was something of a toast to his own rebirth, and he has not looked back since in the sense of taking a drink.

“It was basically my good-bye,” he said, adding there was irony in the discovery as he was just “trying to do something responsible” in cleaning the closet when he came upon the secreted away vodka.

The process is not always easy but Therien maintains a simple outlook.

“Do it right and take it one day at a time,” he said. “That’s the message I try to spread to people.”

Overall the book is very much a broad reflection on his life and career with a perspective gained from over 10 years of sobriety, which is key. The story is very different written through the lens after 10 years away from alcohol.

“Therien takes readers from the blue line to the broadcast booth, sharing untold stories from life in pro hockey while laying bare his private struggle with addiction, including his ultimate low in 2006 after the death of his sister,” notes

“Road to Redemption also details Therien’s deep bond with the city of Philadelphia and his new path helping others find recovery from drug or alcohol abuse.”

Therien said for him the decision to deal with his alcoholism really came down to family.

It is a case where he came to realize alcoholism is “a disease that progresses. It will kill you.”

And, Therien had family he wanted to be there for.

“I had a life worth living,” he said.

The book is ultimately a way to help others, said Therien.

“I wanted to do it so it might help others struggling with drugs and alcohol,” he said. “The best part for me is that it’s a bit of a road map for other people.”