Nick Boynton: “Paul Holmgren saved my life”

Updated: June 13, 2018 at 3:02 pm by Brady Trettenero

Nick Boynton only played 10 games with the Flyers during his NHL career, but his time in Philadelphia was life-changing.

The former NHL defenseman opened up about his personal struggles since retiring from the game in 2011 in a dark and eye-opening Players Tribune article. 

Known for being an enforcer, Boynton uses the article to call for increased mental health initiatives from the league. He details his personal struggle with substance abuse and mental health issues as both a player and a parent.

Boynton suffered numerous concussions throughout his career to the point he was risking his life just to continue getting paid.

“My last few seasons, I was out there basically just flat-out killing myself for a paycheck.”

Boynton details that in his 30s, he was doing anything to try and ease the pain.

“I was basically drinking and self-medicating and doing drugs nonstop. I stayed away from heroin, but other than that everything else was pretty much fair game.”

Boynton was nearing the end of his NHL career when he arrived in Philadelphia in 2010. He had spent the first 10 seasons of his NHL career split between the Bruins, Coyotes, Panthers, Blackhawks and Ducks.

Boynton credits his time in Philadelphia for saving his life:

“At the tail end of my career, I really, genuinely thought that I was going to die one night during the season. It’s hard to talk about, for sure, but … I had stayed up late doing an obscene amount of coke and things just got out of control. After a while my heart felt like it was going to burst out of my chest. I couldn’t get it to slow down. Nothing I did worked. It was probably the most scared I’ve ever been in my life.

I was playing for the Flyers at the time, and we had a morning skate I needed to be at in a few hours. So it was either go to the hospital and check in without anyone noticing or getting word about what had gone down, and then somehow get my ass to practice in the morning … or tell the trainer what had happened and try to make a change.

Basically, it was: Keep putting on an act, or come clean.

The Flyers and Paul Holmgren, who was the GM in Philly at the time, didn’t judge me or make me feel like an outcast when they found out. They sent me to rehab and pledged their support. They looked out for me. Even though I hadn’t been looking out for myself.

And to this day, I honestly believe Paul saved my life back then.

If I had been somewhere else, and they had just traded me away … I’d probably be dead.

Actually, there’s no doubt about it. I wouldn’t be sitting here today writing this thing if that had happened. That’s for sure.

I’d be six feet under.”

Wishing the best for Boynton on his road to recovery and overcoming his mental struggles.

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