As junior hockey player, Brady Leavold showed promise and pugilism.
But if you looked really closely, Leavold will be the first to tell you he also showed problems.
“I was already on the verge of becoming an addict,” Leavold to Global News in an exclusive interview.
When the Kelowna Rockets acquired the 20-year-old in 2007, Leavold admitted to doing cocaine in the off-season.
But he added “while I was in Kelowna, I didn’t use any drugs at all.
”Leavold then says his cocaine use shifted into ‘high gear’ when he signed by the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning.“
During training camp, by the time I was 20, 21, I was really into the cocaine,” he said.
In his first year of minor pro hockey, the Vancouver-born Leavold sustained a torn MCL in the AHL.
“Hello, OxyContin,” Leavold said.
The former Swift Current Broncos rookie of the year quickly developed a dependency on prescription painkillers.
“(Oxycontin) led me to heroin and pretty much every drug in-between,” said Leavold. “By 2011, I was now an intravenous drug user.”
After bouncing around the minors, his addiction spun so violently out of control that Leavold ended up strung out on heroin and living on the streets of Vancouver’s notorious downtown eastside.
From there, Leavold says it just got worse.
“By 2014, there was no more heroin,” he said. “It was just fentanyl and I started to overdose a lot.”
By Leavold’s account, he overdosed so many times that he should have been dead long ago.
Then, in 2016, Leavold was arrested for robbing a taxi driver at knifepoint.
It was at this point, during his court appearance, where he finally hit rock bottom.
“Having to stand up, plead guilty and look back at my parents with absolute shame and disgust in their face,” Leavold recalled.
He served 21 months in jail for that crime — time he now credits for saving his life.
“Every day, I wake up, I take a big deep breath and I’m like ‘Hey I’m still alive.’”
Now two years after getting out of jail, Leavold is living in Ontario and trying to piece his once-promising life back together.
He’s producing Hockey 2 Hell and Back, a podcast that he’s using as a form of therapy on his road to recovery.
“We are going to talk about all things hockey, all things addiction,” Leavold said during an episode of the podcast.
Leavold is using social media to tell his story and the story of others who have struggled with addiction and mental health issues.
“We’ve kind of come together to show people that it’s OK to be not OK,” Leavold said about his subject matter and the guests he interviews.
The former Rocket has also founded ‘The Puck Support Network,’ an organization that promotes mental health for the hockey community.
“The premise of it is to provide support for those who are struggling,” said Leavold, “but maybe, more importantly, develop a channel of education to get to the younger players.”
Leavold says he’s off hard drugs now, but knows that “once an addict, always an addict.”
“It doesn’t matter if I’m a year clean, two years clean or from people I have talked to 25 years clean, it’s always there lurking,” Leavold said of his addiction that cost him a chance at a life in the NHL.
And that’s why Leavold continues to focus on his podcast and the Puck Support Network to help others and to help keep him straight on the road to recovery.