The National Hockey League lockout was way harder of some players than others. It surely marked the end of the career of enforcer Matt Johnson, who never return to the ice after the 2004-05 lockout. But it's more complicated than that...
Johnson's family recalls, in a fascinating documentary by Rick Westhead of TSN, that during the lockout year the former Minnesota Wild player was sleeping all day and acting weird all night in his family home. Tension became unbearable and Johnson left.
“I’d look up and see Matt right behind me. I’d say, ‘Want to sit down and talk?’ Nope. He’d just stand there,” Lee Johnson explained. “It leaves you uneasy. A few times I woke up in the middle of the night and he’s standing above me while I’m in bed. I’d say, ‘Matt, what’s up?’ and he’d say, ‘Nothing.’
“How do you sleep if someone does that? I found I was laying down to sleep and not really sleeping. I put a lock on the bedroom door so he couldn’t come in. Even then you could hear him working the lock all the time…”
They tried to get Johnson into rehab, but he "was lost and in limbo".
"Brenda believes the reasons her oldest son is homeless today may be several fold. She said Matt – “Moose” to his friends and teammates – has struggled with mental-health issues since he was a teenager in major-junior hockey.
She wonders whether more than 100 fights in the NHL, and still more in junior, have left Matt with brain damage, or perhaps the brain-withering disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). And she questions whether the steady stream of addictive pain relievers Matt was given during a decade in the NHL fuelled his self-medicating, causing him to unravel slowly but steadily until he had pushed away even his closest friends."
Johnson was selected in the second round of the 1994 NHL Draft by the Los Angeles Kings. He made his debut with the Kings in January 1995, but wouldn’t play another NHL game following the cancellation of the 2004-05 season.
Some close friends say Matt's story is a carbon copy of what happened to Derek Boogaard, who died in 2011 of a drug overdose.
After four months working with former Kings teammate Jamie Storr a few years ago, Matt disappeared. He is believed to be homeless on the streets of Los Angeles.
His mother "is now considering a trip to the West Coast.
She’s afraid of what she might find."