Growing up in Langley, 13-year-old Jeremy Allingham got to watch a slightly older Stephen Peat play hockey at a local arena.
At 6’3” and 240 pounds, Peat, a then-15-year-old right winger with the BCHL Langley Thunder was impressive, scoring 20 points in 59 games.
That got Peat noticed, first by the WHL and then by NHL, where the physically imposing Peat developed a reputation as a hockey enforcer who was willing to drop his gloves and start swinging.
Many years later, Allingham has charted the downfall of Peat, a player who made millions then ended up homeless.
In his book, Major Misconduct, Allingham suggests the fighting caused brain damage, describing a 2002 fight between Peat and P.J. Stock as “one of the most violent hockey fights of all time,” where the combatants threw more than a punch a second, landing blow after blow to the face.
It was, Allingham noted, more punishment that a pro boxer absorbs.
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Now, Peat suffers from “relentless headaches, memory loss, emotional outbursts, and substance use issues,” Allingham relates in his book.
Allingham notes that the symptoms are consistent with the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
Peat ended up living in his truck and couch-surfing after he was charged with arson in a fire that destroyed his Langley home in 2015, then pleaded guilty.
READ MORE: Peat pleads guilty in arson attack
Allingham spent more than a year working on the book about Peat and two other famous hockey fighters, James McEwan and Dale Purinton.
A lot of his time was spent in pursuit of Peat, who would respond to the occasional text message, but took a very long time before he agreed to a full interview.
Finally, out of the blue on day, Peat agreed to talk by phone.
In the hour-long conversation that ensued, Allingham said Peat described what his life was like, how he was homeless and estranged from his father and how he spent the holidays alone.
“It was the worst Christmas I’ve ever had,” Peat told Allingham.
Allingham recounts his own amazement that a man who made nearly $2 million from hockey “was now living alone, sleeping in the cab of a beat-up GMC pickup or crashing on the couches of any friend who would have him. He was spending most of his days in local parks, trying to find some relief from the relentless headaches and the fog of confusion that surrounded, then swallowed, his life.”
“I just want my health back, man,” Peat told Allingham.
In person, during a long-postponed face-to-face meeting, Peat registered as “an intelligent, charming, funny guy” Allingham told the Langley Advance Times.
Allingham has become an outspoken critic of fighting in hockey.
While the number of fights has fallen over the years, it is still too high, he argues, with “about a one in five chance that you’ll witness a fight” in the NHL.
In the 2018–19 season, that worked out 226 bare-knuckle fights, Allingham recounted, “where young men received concussive and sub-concussive trauma to their brains.”
Allingham believes there is still hope for Peat “to get the help he needs and, possibly, to become healthy again.”
Telling Peat’s story and the stories of the other firmer fighters was an intense and demanding experience for Allingham, who found working on the book left him with barely enough time and energy for his job at CBC and his new life as a parent of two.
“I’m a musician. I completely put that on the side,”
“I didn’t play with my band. My social life shot down 90 per cent.”
Now, he’s writing songs again.
“I’m coming back to it [music] with a fresh outlook.”
Major Misconduct: The Human Cost of Fighting in Hockey, by Jeremy Allingham, with a foreword by Daniel Carcillo, is published by Arsenal Pulp Press.