“It’s never easy” used to say Claude Ruel, former Montreal Canadiens coach and winner of the 1969 Stanley Cup. That was certainly true for Donald Brashear whose rise to fame and fortune was followed by a sudden and brutal descent into the abyss. After fighting off his inner demons, Donald began working as an assistant counsellor for Portage-Québec to help adults with substance use disorders. A true champion never loses his spark and Donald Brashear is now focused on one thing: inspiring others through his own story. The story of a former star who rose from his ashes to become stronger than ever.
Brashear was well-known to Canadiens fans, who watched him skate for the Montreal team from 1993 to 1996. The former NHL left wing was known for his (too) strong temper on and off the ice. The man also known as Brash is now a different person. Humble and engaged in the community, he is a source of hope and an example for everyone who enters the former presbytery that now houses Portage-Québec. Rehabilitation is a long and difficult process, but it is also full of hope and pride.
“No money, no friends, no home, nothing.”
Every year, the Portage Recognition Ceremony honours those who have successfully completed their rehabilitation program. Last October, Donald was asked to share his story. This is what he said: “At the end of my career, I quickly hit rock bottom. I had nothing left. No money, no friends, no home, nothing. There was only me, living in darkness and with a deep sense of shame. Until, one day, the light came back into my life. My spirituality helped me bounce back. I had the courage and humility to ask for and accept help. Now, my inner strength is what I am most proud of.”
Pride can move mountains. After having played hockey in the most famous arenas in the country, Brashear worked at a Tim Hortons’ drive-thru, serving coffee to astonished clients. Serving coffee may seem demeaning for a former star, but not so for Donald: “I am proud to be a father to my children, whom I love, to take care of myself, to have a job that’s fun, that doesn’t necessarily pay very well, but that provides a roof, food on the table and joy for my family and myself, and, most of all, peace of mind. I never would have thought I’d be serving people with a smile at a Tim Hortons’ drive-thru at 5:30 in the morning.”
“I’m just Donald, a human being, a sensitive person who deserves to know true happiness.”
A loving father and an accomplished man, the former hockey player is no longer haunted by his personal demons and is now a full-fledged member of the Portage family: I’m just Donald, a human being, a sensitive person who deserves to know true happiness. Thank you to the Portage counsellors that I have the privilege of working with on a daily basis: Déborah, Franck, Emy, Éric-Alexandre, to name just a few. Not only would I want them on my team, I’d choose them for my first trio.”
At Portage, Donald Brashear is making a difference and helping to save lives.