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In His Youth, a No. 1 NHL Pick. Now, He's Homeless

'Detroit Free Press' examines the sad case of Joe Murphy
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 8, 2019 12:45 PM CDT
Updated Aug 11, 2019 9:31 AM CDT
Chicago Blackhawks captain Chris Chelios congratulates teammate Joe Murphy after Murphy scored the game- and series-winning goal in the conference quarterfinals for the Blackhawks against the Calgary...   (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Mike Ridewood, file)

(Newser) – Today, he is one of about 200 homeless people in the small city of Kenora, Ontario. But back in the 1980s, Joe Murphy was one of the NHL's young stars. Murphy, now 51, was the No. 1 pick in the 1986 draft, and he went on to play 15 seasons for the Detroit Red Wings and various other teams while earning $13 million. Which makes his current plight all the more puzzling. Reporter Jeff Seidel of the Detroit Free Press spent several days with Murphy and emerges with a story revolving around mental health issues and drug abuse. One especially wrenching detail is that Murphy has all kinds of people trying to help him—including former teammates and the league itself—but he keeps refusing it. "I do like being alone," he says at one point, attempting to explain why he moved out of a motel paid for by the NHL Alumni Association.

Murphy suffered multiple concussions over his playing career, and while there is no definitive proof that head trauma contributed to his situation, he suffers from symptoms consistent with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) such as depression, difficulty thinking, emotional instability (he speaks of spirits and archangels a lot), and suicidal thoughts. Murphy is one of more than 300 former players eligible to receive a $22,000 settlement from the NHL over head injuries, and he is eligible for up to $75,000 in medical treatment, but it's unclear whether he intends to collect. He says he prefers living on the streets rather than in shelters. “I get into those situations and my head starts going and I don’t want any trouble to start,” Murphy says. “It’s not the shelters, it’s me. I like having the privacy. It’s my own fault.” Click to read the full story. (Read more Longform stories.)

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