Former Jet who nearly killed his career with alcohol, drugs, is getting another shot at NHL


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The demons followed him to Winnipeg, clung to him as he struggled to make an impact with the Jets and then tightened their grip when he left town.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/09/2016 (2343 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The demons followed him to Winnipeg, clung to him as he struggled to make an impact with the Jets and then tightened their grip when he left town.

A very troubled Devin Setoguchi had a short, unremarkable stay in Winnipeg. The club had dealt a second-round pick to acquire him from the Minnesota Wild in July 2013 as a relatively cheap way to strengthen its scoring punch.

But he fired just 11 goals and chipped in 16 assists in 75 games during the 2013-14 season as an unrestricted free agent and wasn’t offered a new contract.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Devin Setoguchi during his playing days with the Winnipeg Jets.

Setoguchi was a disappointment. He was lazy. He was out of shape.

And he was using.

In an interview with The Hockey News, he admitted to a long battle with alcohol and drugs that would eventually cost him a job in the NHL.

And he talked openly about his dark days in Winnipeg.

“I did a lot there where I would stay up all night till 6 in the morning, 7 in the morning, do a little bit, go to morning skate, go home, sleep for six hours and get up to play,” Setoguchi said. “I’m surprised sometimes I didn’t have a heart attack. Three or four months of that.”

Speaking with TSN 1290’s Hustler and Lawless on Thursday afternoon, Setoguchi said he had ‘a guy’ in Winnipeg he could dial if he was looking for cocaine.

“I found a guy off the street, I put him in my phone book and every day it just got to the point where I’d start drinking and I’d want to do drugs. That’s just kind of where it went,” he said.

“It was all my personal choice on what I was doing and how I was doing it. It was just another step of numbing my depression by turning to drugs and drinking.”

Now, clean and sober after a stint in rehab, Setoguchi has accepted a tryout with the Los Angeles Kings. At 29, he’s got a new lease on life.

Setoguchi said he’d hoped a move three years ago to Winnipeg would provide the same opportunity. He welcomed the trade, despite two decent season with the Wild, and was anticipating instant chemistry with young linemates Mark Scheifele and Evander Kane.

But he admitted he reported to training camp in pitiful shape, and his drinking was nearly out of control.

Setoguchi told THN he figures he missed three different team meetings because he was too smashed to make it in. And he often went straight from the MTS Centre to a nearby bar owned by True North Sports and Entertainment.

“But at that point,” Setoguchi said, “I didn’t really care.”

He also abused the prescription drug Ambien, a sleeping aid, and then turned to cocaine.

Setoguchi said he never did drugs with teammates — but many knew he was in distress.

“They knew I was kind of in a tight spot, they knew something wasn’t right,” he told TSN 1290. “Thorbs (Chris Thorburn) came over a couple of times. Kaner (Evander Kane) even came over a couple of times and dumped booze right out of my house. The guys were all good.

“And I was never one to drag anyone into it or drag anything down. I would always just stick to myself and that was kind of it. I had Scheif (Mark Scheifele), I had Wrighter (James Wright), they would drive me around, they would pick me up. They were good. They were my young guys I’d hang out with and they took care of me.”

Setoguchi said teammates would actually cover for him during line drills in practice.

“When Olli (Jokinen) was there, he knew. He knew when I showed up at practice,” he told TSN 1290. “I said, ‘I think I’m going to have a heart attack,’ and he’d say, ‘Sit this one out.’ Olli and Thorbs would do my reps for me in practice and then I would secretly sneak in under the radar and be done with it. It’s not a feeling I would ever want to feel ever again.”

On Thursday, the Jets declined to comment on Setoguchi’s assertions teammates knew he was in trouble.

“We can’t offer any comment on this matter. Confidentiality is one of the primary tenets of the league’s substance abuse program under the (collective bargaining agreement),” said Scott Brown, senior director of hockey communications.

Setoguchi told THN the boozing began while he cranked out 30-goal seasons as a junior star in Saskatoon and Prince George, B.C., of the Western Hockey League.

San Jose selected him eighth overall in the 2005 NHL Draft, and he scored 31 goals for the Sharks just three years later when he was only 21 years old. With that kind of production, he saw no reason to stop partying, he told THN.

After his time in Winnipeg, Setoguchi inked a deal with Calgary and promptly scored zero goals in his first dozen games in the fall of 2014. The Flames sent him to their AHL affiliate, the Adirondack Flames, which played out of Glen Falls, N.Y., and he lasted just 19 games before suffering a hernia injury.

That’s when he discovered Jameson Irish Whiskey, downing a pair of 26-ounce bottles a day.

A few months later, his body finally fought back.

“I physically couldn’t move without being sore in my stomach. I had a stomach ulcer, I was coughing up blood, my eyes were yellow,” he told TSN 1290. “I literally drank two bottles of Jameson a day for about three weeks and I physically couldn’t do it and just had a mental breakdown where I finally confided in my dad and my wife and my sister and my family.”

Setoguchi called Dr. Brian Shaw, co-founder of the substance-abuse program endorsed by the NHL and the NHL Players Association, and was in a rehab centre near Malibu, Calif., four days later, he said to THN.

Eighteen months later, he’s feeling terrific.

“As far as hockey goes and everything, that’s just a miniscule — like a miniature — thing to me, you know the way my life is and how happy I am,” Setoguchi told TSN 1290. “Hockey is just a bonus, just to throw it in there. I’m excited for the chance to go to (the Kings) and get another chance at it.”


Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

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