No one was really surprised when Patrick O’Sullivan slipped out of the first round of the 2003 NHL draft. There was no question the kid was talented. He’d been named the OHL and CHL rookie of the year in 2002 after scoring 34 goals and 92 points in just 68 games with the Mississauga Ice Dogs and appeared to have all the tools to become an effective top-six forward in the NHL.
But there were also whispers about him. Questions about his character. Off-ice discipline. His family.
The truth, when it emerged, was heartbreaking. O’Sullivan had been physically and emotionally abused from an early age by his father, John O’Sullivan, a short-time minor leaguer who channeled the anger and frustration created by his own broken dreams through his son.
The younger O’Sullivan comes clean about his painful past in vivid, sickening detail in his book Breaking Away: A Harrowing True Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph, which was released Tuesday.
“I think it's a story that is far too common—maybe not as extreme as mine—but there’s a lot of people, parents or even coaches that think they're going to be the difference-maker in their kid making it, whether it sports or music or whatever,” O’Sullivan told The Toronto Sun. “You do a lot more harm than you do good.
“It’s important because the subject involved is kids, and they don’t have a voice of their own. They can’t change their circumstances. Someone needs to do that for them.
“There’s a lot of people that don’t even know it goes on, it’s a very private thing, ‘it’s not my business anyways.’ A lot of people don’t want to know because it puts them in a tough spot. They think they saw something, they’re not sure, they don’t want to know anymore. That’s got to change.”
To promote the release of the book, O’Sullivan took part in a Reddit Ask Me Anything session. Here are a couple of the highlights:
On his motivation to share his story: “With my book and my story in general I’m trying to bring light to mental health awareness in hockey. There is an extreme old-school mentality in hockey when it comes to certain things and that desperately needs to change.”
On the prevalence of illegal drug use in the NHL: “You hear rumours, I haven’t seen it though. One thing to keep in mind is that pro athletes are like normal people when it comes to what they like to do away from the game, I’ll leave it at that.”
On Sean Avery as a teammate: “Sean was actually my first NHL roommate on the road. Not sure who’s idea that was to stick a rookie with a guy like him but it happened. I think he’s a misunderstood guy, and truthfully I don’t think he was really meant to play hockey. He was just good at it so he did it until he couldn’t do it anymore and he moved on. Not the best roommate I had in my career.”
On the toughest goalie he faced: “I couldn’t score on King Henrik [Lundqvist] to save my life. His good looks are intimidating. For some reason I did well against Dominic Hasek. I only played against him a few times but I had a lot of success against him early in my career.”
On his favorite teammate: “The teammate I looked up to the most was Rob Blake. He was the ultimate leader and captain, just an all-around good person. He was awesome with Anze Kopitar and I when we were rookies in LA.”
You can read the entire AMA thread here.