CTE is Not Just an NFL Problem

Ex-NHL enforcer Stephen Peat's father details son's struggles with CTE and drugs.

Stephen Peat
Boston Bruins left wing Steve Parsons, right, throws a right during a fight with Washington Capitals forward Stephen Peat (51) during the first period of a preseason game Sept. 20, 2002, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Most of our current sports-induced concussion dialogue is centered around football, but that isn’t the only sport putting athletes at risk of serious brain injuries. Just ask Stephen Peat’s dad, Walter.

Earlier in November, the New York Times published a series of letters by Walter Peat, detailing a contentious relationship with Stephen, a former enforcer for the Washington Capitals and the Carolina Hurricanes. In his letters, Walter describes his son as a violent, off-and-on homeless drug addict whose CTE symptoms are being ignored by the NHL.

“Stephen may become another statistic in NHL players who’s life is ended due to brain injuries suffered from playing,” Walter writes in one letter. “The NHL has offered zero help … [Stephen] is suffering badly from memory loss, depression, extreme headaches, and at times [suicidal] thoughts.” Other letters discuss Stephen’s strain on Walter’s finances, and the final letter is a no-contact order from Walter. “I need to step away, and allow my son to hit bottom on his own,” Walter says.

In March 2017, Stephen Peat was charged with arson after setting fire to his father’s house after an argument. Stephen insisted that the fire was an accident (his official plea was “arson by negligence”), and has disputed his father’s account of their relationship. “I am disappointed in my father since I once held him so high on a pedestal.”

Whether you believe Walter Peat or not, he’s right to be concerned about concussions in the NHL. Hockey hasn’t gotten nearly as much press or scrutiny on the subject as the NFL has,  even though six former NHL enforcers have died before turning 50 since 2010.

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