I can not lie, as someone who got to watch Johan Franzen in his prime during his tenure with the Detroit Red Wings this story was a difficult one for me.
Franzen does not do a whole lot of media events anymore since he has left the sport of hockey behind and is it turns out there is probably a pretty good reason for that. We all have heard about Franzen's struggles off the ice since he left the National Hockey League, struggles that Franzen and others believed were caused by the blows to the head he suffered during his on ice career. A recent Swedish interview he conducted however paints an even darker picture than anything I could have imagined.
Now the interview was originally conducted in Swedish but I want to give a big shout out to Reddit user big_phat_gator who was kind enough to translate and transcribe the interview on the Red Wings subreddit for those of us who do not understand Franzen's native language. Needless to say the interview was disturbing, and if you ever held any love for Franzen in your heart it is probably long past time to be concerned about his long term health and well being.
"I could be speaking to someone and the day after i have forgotten about that person," admitted Franzen, embarrassed. "My brain doesn't register, its so hard."
The narrator also provided some more details regarding what Franzen has been dealing with over the course of the video interview as well.
"Its been 4 years since the hit that changed Johan Franzens life for ever," began the narrator. "In a game versus Edmonton in January of 2015 the Detroit star with over 700 NHL games, suffered his 5th concussion and after that nothing is ever the same. Johan was forced to quit hockey and the years following has often been pitch black, severe migraine, panic attacks, loss of memory, depression and intensive care homes is only a small fraction of what has struck Johan and his family.
The damage he suffered to the brain will follow him for the rest of his life."
The hit they are referring to here came courtesy of former Edmonton Oiler Rob Klinkhammer. No disrespect to Klinkhammer here but it makes it an even more bitter pill to swallow knowing this is happening to Franzen because of a cheap shot from a player that no one will care to remember. The video below are the highlights from the game where the hit occurred, if you skip to the 5:00 mark you can see it on the replay from the highlights.
Franzen did not state that he has been suffering with substance abuse issues, but he did appear to hint at the fact when he said that he know "understands" the mindset of a person who becomes an addict.
"You understand the people who end up with addictions, everything is so embarrassing," said Franzen. Now days I am very open about not remembering things and i almost right away tell people. If there is someone who I don't remember, even tho we might have spoken before like just a day earlier I am very open about not remembering. It can be like "Hey, we have met like yesterday right?" just to get the information out there. I try to drop whats so embarrassing about it and just get it out there as quick as i can."
Perhaps the saddest part of the interview however came when Franzen revealed that he does not understand how his wife Cecilia can stand to still be around him, that he does not understand how she can still be his wife. I do not know what Cecilia or Johan have gone through behind closed doors but I do know that I am grateful she is around, otherwise who knows how bad things could get for Franzen.
I do not want this to be a purely negative story so I will leave you with the one positive takeaway from this interview. Although Franzen admitted that things fall apart very quickly for him, he does have some hope still that things can get better in the future.
"It feels like it can be better, i haven't felt like that before. That is what I am feeling right now. Its very hard to be in Detroit, its very difficult. I have a lot of very bad memories, but i also have some of my best memories here of course but these past years i have just felt like it dont wanna live here anymore i have had so much anxiety, panic attacks and depression. I sometimes travel to the mountains out west, just to get out and its often enough that i just see the mountains and the nature to make me feel better. Its very difficult to be here and figure out things to do, i try to trick my brain into doing things but it only works for a short time before it all just falls apart again."