Proving he 'Cane sober up

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:16 AM ET

CARY, North Carolina -- As far as comebacks go, Dan Lacouture is pulling a major victory from deep in the jaws of defeat.

And it has little to do with hockey. The NHL winger is salvaging his life.

Caught in a ugly downward spiral of alcohol and depression the last few years, Lacouture was on his way to losing everything -- his career, his wife and newborn daughter and everything he ever held dear.

"Things just started tail spinning out of whack," said the 31-year-old Carolina Hurricane. "I was doing a lot of drinking because I was depressed (about being in the minors). I just started drinking every night -- a bottle, two bottles of wine every night without fail."

Lacouture, like so many hockey players, always enjoyed the odd drink, but it started taking control of his life when the Devils demoted him two seasons ago.

His wife had just given birth and he didn't want to uproot his family and move them to a minor-league city, so he made a two-hour commute, each way, every day, from his home to the AHL rink in Lowell.

His answer to the fatigue, the stress and the disappointment of not playing in the NHL was to pound back a few drinks every night. Then a few more. Until it wasn't social drinking anymore.

"It was never a problem before," said Lacouture, who played for the Edmonton Oilers from 1998 to '01 before stops in Pittsburgh, New York, Providence, Davos, Boston, New Jersey, Lowell and Lugano.

"I did it all to myself. It became a habit at home."

It didn't take long before the booze caught up with him.

"(My wife) couldn't talk to me," he said. "I was so far gone, just upset and miserable every day, Pretty much just torturing myself. I'd be drinking all night and the next day, I'd be hung over and not myself."

Finally, and probably just in time, he made the decision to pull out of it. To get help.

"This summer, I said enough was enough. I was like, 'What the hell am I doing?' There have been some things I couldn't control the last few years, but I can control not drinking. I can control that.

"I looked at my wife and my daughter and said something has to give."

That was four months ago. Lacouture went to counselling, trained like a fiend all summer and put out the word he was willing to go to camp on a tryout basis.

Carolina gave him his shot. He made the team and scored the game-winner in the Hurricanes' home-opener.

"I have a clear conscience coming to the rink every day," he said.

"I don't come thinking I had too much to drink last night, feeling guilty. I come knowing that I took care of myself, that I'm ready to go today.


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