Former NHL player Patrick O’Sullivan recalls Child Abuse horror in essay
Former NHL player Patrick O’Sullivan gave troubling first-person insight into the horrors of child abuse in a brutally revealing essay for The Players’ Tribune website.
In “Black and Blue,” O’Sullivan, 30, recounts the personal hell that was growing up with a sadistic father who beat him mercilessly “every single day” from the age of five to 16, using everything from fists to lit cigarettes to soda cans as weapons of torture.
“He would throw punches. Not like he was hitting a small child — but like he was in a bar fight with a grown man,” O’Sullivan – a forward who played for the LA Kings, Edmonton Oilers, Carolina Hurricanes, Minnesota Wild and Phoenix Coyotes – said of his abuser, a hulking 6-2, 250-lb failed hockey player who used extreme violence to mold his child into the professional he never managed to become.
But O’Sullivan’s improvement on the ice only fueled his father’s twisted motivational methods.
“By the time I was 10, it got worse. He would put cigarettes out on me. Choke me. Throw full soda cans at my head… I knew that my play would determine just how bad I got it when we got home. I’d score a hat trick, and afterward we’d get in the car and he would tell me that I played ‘like a f—-‘ (that was his favorite term, which says a lot).”
The abuse took place out in the open. Players, parents and coaches witnessed multiple incidents but, according to O’Sullivan, did nothing to stop it.
Not even his own mother protected him.
“I’ll never forget this moment when I was 10 years old. I was about to leave the house for a game when my mother pulled me aside and whispered, ‘You better play well out there today, because if you don’t, it’s going to be bad tonight.'”
O’Sullivan finally ended the cycle of abuse when the then-16-year-old fought back one night and got his father arrested, but wishes someone had done the right thing years earlier and alerted authorities.
“It just takes one person to act on their instinct and stand up for that child. That’s real courage. The kind we don’t always glorify in the hockey world.”
He’s hoping those who read his essay get that courage, because “I guarantee you there’s hundreds of kids across North America who will get dressed for hockey this weekend with their stomach turning, thinking the same thing I did as a kid: ‘I better play really good there, or tonight is going to be really bad.’”