Monday, December 17, 2007

Kevin Stevens

Brockton, Massachusetts is the birthplace of legendary middleweight boxing champion "Marvelous" Marvin Hagler. The boxer with the best chin ever was never knocked down in his entire 14-year professional career.

Brockton, Massachusetts is also the birthplace of Kevin Stevens, hockey's ultimate power forward in the early 1990s. The hockey player who was knocked down several times during his 13-year professional career.

Kevin grew up in a sports oriented family back in Massachusetts. His father Arthur was a good baseball prospect who played in the Cincinnati Reds minor league system. Even though Kevin was good at other sports, especially baseball, it was hockey that was his passion. He played one year at Silver Lake high school and played so well that he was drafted 112th overall by Los Angeles in 1983.

Kevin decided to finish his college education and picked Boston College where he played for four years, earning a degree in economics. There was still some question then whether Stevens would play hockey or baseball. He actually attended rookie camps for both the Toronto Blue Jays and the Philadelphia Phillies. The LA Kings didn't have the patience to wait for him so they traded him to Pittsburgh later for journeyman Anders Hakansson.

During his four years at B.C. Stevens scored 71 goals, 99 assists 170 points in 158 games. He was the captain at B.C. where his teammates included Craig Janney and Brian Leetch. Kevin set a B.C. record in 1986-87 when he scored 15 power play goals. He was named to the Second Team All-America, First Team Hockey East and First Team All-New England.

After his college career was over he was invited to the US national team to fight for a spot on the Olympic team. He represented USA in the 1987 Pravda Cup in Moscow and the 1987 World Championships in Vienna. Kevin played really well in the 44 games he played, scoring 45 points including 22 goals. This earned him a ticket to the 1988 Olympics in Calgary.

Kevin played a few games for Pittsburgh after the Olympics and then started the following season in IHL, playing for the Muskegon Lumberjacks. After a while he was called up to Pittsburgh and finished the 1988-89 season there.

He once again represented USA in the 1990 World Championships and played well, scoring 7 points in 10 games. Playing alongside the great Mario Lemieux, Kevin soon emerged as not only one of Pittsburgh's best players but also as one NHL's premier power forwards. He helped Pittsburgh win their first Stanley Cup in 1991 and scored 86 regular season points and another 33 in the playoffs.

He set an NHL record for most points by a left wing, 123, in 1991-92 and finished second in league scoring behind line mate Mario Lemieux. His 123 points was also an NHL record for an American born player in the NHL. He was also the first NHL player to score 50 goals, 100 points and 200 penalty minutes in one season. He helped Pittsburgh to their second straight cup picking up 28 points in the playoffs.

Kevin's stellar play continued the following season as he scored 55 goals, tying the NHL record for American born players. His 111 points was good enough for 12th overall in the league.

Stevens was about much more than scoring. At 6'3" and over 215lbs, he had the size coaches covet and opponents dread. He was a deceptive skater and he relished the physical game. He was a weak defensive player, but he made up for that with goals and hits, and lots of them.

But then came the most famous knock out essentially ended his career. During the 1993 playoffs he was checked hard by NY Islanders Rich Pilon. Pilon's visor actually hit Stevens in the face, knocking him out instantly. Then he fell face first on the ice breaking numerous facial bones. During the off-season he had reconstructive surgery on his forehead and nose. It was a nasty injury and even though he managed to score 41 goals and 88 points the following season it was evident that it wasn't the same old Kevin Stevens.

He seemed to shy away from the physical contact that he used to love. He didn't initiate much of the physical play which of course isn't so strange looking back at his injury. But it was such an integral part of his game. Kevin never was a great skater, but he always had a good shot with a quick release. In the past he never thought twice about where his shot was going, which made him dangerous. He had great hand-eye coordination and was especially dangerous on power plays. But after the injury some of these things were missing from his game.

With Steven's deteriorating play and Mario Lemieux's growing absence due to injuries and illness, Pittsburgh traded Stevens and his big contract to Boston on August 2, 1995. Many people, including Kevin thought that his trade home to Boston would be an injection to his career. Unfortunately Kevin turned out to be a bust in Beantown and was even benched by Steve Kasper at one point. He only lasted a half season before Bruins quickly traded Kevin to Los Angeles in exchange for Rick Tocchet.

After the 1995-96 season was over Kevin went on to represent USA in the 1996 World Championships in Vienna. Kevin led all scorers on the US team as they picked up a Bronze medal. Their first medal in 34 years (1962). That was Kevin's last high point as a player.

Kevins on ice, and perhaps off ice troubles began in LA. His career was on the downside and the life in the fast lane in LA may have been too much for Kevin. He was pretty much a bust in LA as well and was shipped to NY Rangers on August 28, 1997 for Luc Robitaille. In New York Kevin never got his act together either. At this time Kevin was seen as an overpaid player who played on the third and fourth line. NY Rangers tried to ship Kevin to other clubs, but with his hefty salary and age there weren't any takers.

Halfway through the 1999-2000 season hockey fans around the world were shocked to learn about the sad story involving Kevin Stevens. On January 22, 2000 he was caught at a sleazy motel room in East St. Louis with a prostitute, a glass pipe and crack cocaine. How could an NHL player with a million dollar salary could sink so low ? Apparently Kevin had battled problems with drugs years earlier and had been in substance abuse programs. The greatest victims aside from Kevin is his wife (Suzanne) and two children (son Luke and daughter Kylie). Suzanne was pregnant with their third child.

From the outside it seemed as though Kevin Stevens had everything going for him. He was a popular multi sport star in college and a good student who graduated with an economics degree. He went on to the Olympics and the NHL, establishing himself as one of the best players in the game he loved. Money and adoration quickly followed, as did alcohol and drugs.

Stevens entered the NHL/NHLPA substance abuse program to clean up his act. He briefly returned to the NHL, first with the Philadelphia Flyers then returning to the Pittsburgh Penguins. He retired in 2002, staying in Pittsburgh first to work on radio broadcasts and later as a scout.


Eighty-Two said...

He was one of my favourite players. I was heartbroken three times: 1. when he got hurt in the 1993 playoffs; 2. when the Pens traded him; 3. when he got busted.

Anonymous said...

I miss you Kevin!!! You will always be my favorite!!!!

Anonymous said...

I met you back in 1990 and have always loved you!!! You will always be my favorite even now on the road to the 3rd Stanley Cup I wish I could see you out there skating!!!!

Anonymous said...

I met Kevin in 1990 and have always loved him. Even now that the Pens are going for the Cup again, I wish I could see you out there skating. You will always be my favorite!!!

Diane said...

God, I sure do miss you!!! You ARE and will ALWAYS BE my Favorite player. I will forever treasure my # 25 jersey signed by you. Keep scouting for the Pens. Love and take care, Diane

Anonymous said...

Kevin you are greatest guy in the world.Fantastic hockey player, nice person, and the best father. Your russian frend

Anonymous said...

Kevin is truly one of the greatest power forwards the game has ever produced. Cam Neely created the term "power forward," but Kevin really defined it. That injury in 1993 did affect him,although he never used it as an excuse. He is my all time favorite player and although his career(and personal life)has had it's share of ups and downs,he is a really great person and I'm glad he finished his NHL career where he began it,right here in Pittsburgh.

Anonymous said...

I've known him personally for my whole life.You will not find a better guy, or father.He will always be one of my closest friends.

Anonymous said...

I met you in Chicago when you were playing on the Olympic hockey team. We talked seveal times after that. You are an amazaing guy with a big heart. Life is full of ups and downs, be strong. Love Annette

Anonymous said...

I met him a few times back then. He seemed a little bit into himself. But he was agreat player.

Anonymous said...

Kevin Stevens will always be my all time favorite Pens player. He's a great guy, I've met him several times!! Glad you still have a connection with the Pens and the fans!

grateful mom said...

At an autograph session, my sons stood in line for 3 hours to meet you. The vast majority were women and security pushed people thru. When my sons got to you, you took time to talk to them about staying in school, getting good grades and staying out of trouble. You gave no idea how much that meant to them. I will always love you for thatt and love seeing you on the ice again. grateful mom

Anonymous said...

I have been engaged to Kevin Stevens now for a year and he is the kindest most generous man I have EVER met!! He loves hockey and most of all loves his fans, till this day he sits every night and signs all his fanmail and sends it back to his adoring fans. He ran into his troubles years ago but got his life together and although his marriage didn't work out he is a wonderful father and does everything he can to make his children happy!! He is a hard worker as a scout for the penguins and I can't wait to be able to call such a wonderful man my husband! Thank you to all his loyal fans who stood by him.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on your engagement. Everyone deserves a second chance. I have been a huge pens fan since the 70's and I am thrilled Kevin works for the Penguins organization. I hope that as a scout for the penguins if he can help one young player not make the mistake he made with drugs and alcohol by talking with them, this would be another great accomplishment in his life.

Brendan said...

I remember him during his time with the Penguins. Real great player during his time with them in the early 90s.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure who Kevin was engaged to in 2010 but we've been engaged since 2009 and he is a wonderful person with a heart of gold!! He loved his career and cherishes his kids. He treats me like a queen and never forgets to show how much he loves. He's worked hard for his sobriety and sets a good example for newcomers. Anyone can fall down, it's how u pick yourself up and keep moving and he's done just that!! Thank u to all his loyal fans

Anonymous said...

Fantastic player with the Penguins. I am so glad he is getting his life in order. God's Blessings to him and his family.

Unknown said...

I know Kevin and his family very well. Great guy, great people. Everyone has their dark time, his was just in the public eye. Never changed his character. Still forever a great man! Hope everything goin well with Kevin now!

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