Kassian talks road to sobriety: 'You've got to be willing to help yourself'
Edmonton Oilers forward Zack Kassian candidly discussed his past struggles with substance abuse and his road to sobriety with former teammates Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa on "The Kes & Juice" podcast.
The trio played together with the Vancouver Canucks, a portion of Kassian's career when he battled alcoholism. During the discussion, Kassian credited Kesler and Bieksa for their efforts to help but said the only way he could ultimately recover was to look inward.
"One thing I've learned through this whole process of getting clean is the only way you're going to do it is if you want to do it yourself," Kassian said, per Daniel Wagner of the Vancouver Courier.
"You've got to be willing to help yourself. Sadly, you guys tried to help multiple times, but it took, ultimately, a car accident to hit my rock bottom and to really think about what I was doing and how it was affecting the people around me, not only my career, but my family, my friends, and my teammates."
Kassian was traded from the Canucks to the Montreal Canadiens in 2015, but he never played a regular-season game in a Habs uniform. In October of that year, Kassian broke his nose and fractured his foot in a car accident where he was a passenger.
He was under the influence during the crash, and he subsequently underwent the NHL's substance abuse program. Upon completing the program, the Canadians put him on waivers before trading him to the Oilers two weeks later.
"Obviously the incident in Montreal was pretty humbling," Kassian said. "After that accident, my world came crumbling down. There's no easy way to put it: I broke down, I cried a couple times, I didn't think I was going to get back to the NHL, to be honest."
Kassian was a first-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres in 2009 and is currently enjoying a career year alongside Connor McDavid on the Oilers' top line. Kassian's posted 28 points - one shy of his personal best in a season - in 44 games, and is reportedly in good shape to receive a multi-year extension from the club before hitting unrestricted free agency in July.