SUN Hockey Pool

Myhres has fought off alcohol addiction

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:46 AM ET

Wearing a Superman t-shirt and a sweater reading 'freedom' on the back, Brantt Myhres was asked yesterday morning if he expected problems against the Oilers.

"Problems?" repeated the 31-year-old enforcer. "Not problems but it'll definitely be a heated game."

Myhres knows all about problems. Fighting isn't a problem -- it's a way of life for a man who has had issues throughout his career focusing on the only job he knows. The lack of focus came courtesy of pals like Jack Daniels, Jim Beam and Captain Morgan who've shadowed him through bars in six NHL and eight minor league cities he's played in.

"My mindset in this camp is a lot different than the previous nine I've been to," said Myhres, perhaps the longest-running project in the NHL/NHLPA's substance abuse program.

"I definitely think I had other priorities and other things on my agenda than being a professional hockey player until now.

"It wasn't that I didn't remember things as much I had issues mentally on the ice -- not being sharp and worrying about who was going to find out about (the drinking). It was sort of like leading two lives. I sort of veered towards the other side of hockey -- the off-ice stuff -- and didn't pay attention to what got me there."

What got him there was the ability to go toe-to-toe with anyone on the ice, no matter how tired or hung over he was. However, all that stopped in 2003 when he no longer had anyone to sponsor his late-night drinking binges. His hockey career appeared over as no one took a chance on the notorious boozer all year. Enter Darryl Sutter, who got to know the 6-ft. 3-in., 220-lb. winger summering in Sylvan Lake.

"Darryl explained that if I could get back on track he'd give me a contract," said Myhres, who started drinking heavily at age 17 when he was traded to Lethbridge.

"I can't say enough about how he's given me hope and stuck with me and I'm really grateful to the organization for giving me another chance."

Chances are something Myhres knows all about as an alcoholic who was suspended four times for violating terms of the substance abuse program.

"They've stuck with me through thick and thin," said Myhres of the program that has seen him tested twice a week for seven years -- so long he had to beg officials at one point to continue funding his recovery efforts. "There's a four strike rule and I hit the fourth strike. It was sort of unchartered territory from their end, too."

Yet, here he is. A longshot to replace the departed Krzysztof Oliwa, Myhres knows Sutter's faith and goodwill can only go so far. He didn't help his chances of staying with the team last night after being knocked down twice by three Georges Laraque punches that closed Myhres' left eye and required enough stitches to end his night three minutes in.

"I don't look at it as a second chance, it's a new lease and he's handled it really well -- good for him," said Sutter of Myhres. "To be reinstated is not the easiest thing. It doesn't matter who it is, the biggest challenge they face is the admission and then the actual program. We've seen a lot of guys where the admission isn't there and it has ruined their careers. Then we've seen guys go through the rehabilitation and save their careers... or ruin them."

Regardless of his hockey future, Myhres is confident he'll fare better in the fight of his life than he did last night.

"All I know is that I'm standing here today and things are a lot different," said the owner of 2,500 penalty minutes since junior. "Things are on track now and I'm really happy about that."


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