Like many Canadian boys, Brady Leavold had a dream of becoming a pro hockey player.
Instead, a combination of childhood trauma and an inability to cope, led Brady Leavold down a path of destruction.
"At five years old, first my mom left and my dad became a single dad. Shortly thereafter, I was sexually abused," Leavold explains.
He says he very quickly became obsessed with hockey because it gave him the escape he was looking for.
"It allowed me to get away from all the pain and hurt that I was feeling that I didn't understand at five years old."
As Brady became a teenager, his mental health started to deteriorate rapidly, and even though hockey was there as an outlet, there were times when it wasn’t enough.
At the age of 16, Brady signed with the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League. He was even named the team’s rookie-of-the-year despite leaving during the season for a short period, what would now be considered a mental-health leave.
"After just seven games in my second season, I packed up my 1990 Ford Ranger and drove 14 hours straight back to Port Coquitlam without saying goodbye to any of my teammates," Brady explains.
It was at this point that Brady's life took a turn for the worst. Shortly after returning home, he was introduced to drugs for the first time, something that would change his life forever.
He eventually returned to the Broncos when he was 19 years old, but after one season was traded to the Kelowna Rockets.
Kelowna was good for Brady, and even though he continued to suffer off the ice, he managed to earn himself a contract with the AHL's Norfolk Admirals.
"The summer leading into my first year of pro hockey, my addiction took over my life," Brady explains. "By the time training camp came, I was nowhere near ready to take on the world’s best at Tampa Bay’s camp. Just four games into my first season, I blew my knee out, which sidelined me for three months and led me down the road to OxyContin. What I didn’t know at the time was just how strong a hold that medication would have on my life."
This was the beginning of the end of Brady's hockey career, and it would change the trajectory of his life for the next 12 years.
From there, Brady dealt with an ongoing addiction that would land him homeless and eventually in jail.
Now in recovery, Brady is sharing his story in hopes of helping others. He has also started an organization called Puck Support which offers resources to those battling addiction and mental health challenges in the hockey world.
Today on Connections, Brady shares his story and the importance of shining a light on mental health and addiction within the hockey world.