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It’s an interview Nate Thompson didn’t really want to do at first, but he’s very happy he did.
The veteran Canadiens centre sat down with his wife, Sydney, and Sportsnet’s Christine Simpson for a feature interview that aired on Hockey Night in Canada last Saturday about his struggles with alcohol and drug abuse and how he was finally able to get his life back on track. Thompson, 35, has been sober for more than three years.
“It’s been kind of overwhelming, to be honest,” Thompson said about the reaction to the video after the Canadiens’ practised Tuesday in Brossard. “I was actually kind of nervous before. I didn’t really want to do it at first, but after thinking about it, talking about it with Christine and my wife, it was one of those things where it was bigger than me. I think it’s one of those things where if I can help just one person, it’s a win. But it was an overwhelming, flattering reaction, for sure.
“The hockey world is awesome,” added Thompson, who is in his 13th NHL season after being selected by the Boston Bruins in the sixth round of the 2003 draft. “Former coaches I’ve had, players, different media people throughout hockey. It’s been one of those things that’s overwhelming and I’m extremely flattered.”
Thompson is one of the most popular players in the Canadiens’ locker room and his young teammates call him “Uncle Nate.”
During the HNIC interview, Thompson talked openly about how he had his first drink at age 11 or 12 (it was vodka), began smoking marijuana in high school and by his mid-20s was doing other drugs, including cocaine, MDMA (known as Molly and Ecstasy) and magic mushrooms. He eventually hit rock bottom and reached out for help.
“He’s a huge part of our room,” teammate Ben Chiarot said about Thompson. “Obviously, a guy that’s been around a long time. Has a lot of life experience and hockey experiences. He’s a guy that all the young guys look up to.”
As for the HNIC interview, Chiarot said: “That takes some real guts to kind of tell your story like that and open yourself up and be vulnerable like that. But you think about a Habs player opening up and telling his story like that and think how many people it helps outside the game. It’s great to see he did that.”
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