While his hockey career might have been something to write home about, a self-written book about the challenges in his life could turn out to be his greatest contribution to one and all.
Chris Therien’s “Road to Redemption” celebrates its first anniversary in print this week but the message never gets old.
The autobiography chronicles a past life in which he tried to juggle participation in a professional sport with the demons of substance abuse. The former Flyers defenseman battled chronic alcoholism for more than a decade and it took tremendous personal fortitude – along with the assistance of others – to navigate stormy waters before safely reaching the shoreline.
Road to Redemption (Triumph Books, available on Amazon.com) explains why he somehow allowed himself to fall victim to this “disease” and how it affects so many others like him.
What amazes him is the outpouring of support he’s received, much of it coming from the general public, including a lot of folks either still in active recovery or seeking to find answers to their addiction.
Therien, who’s been clean and sober for more than a decade, has immersed himself in the recovery movement. That includes getting involved in treatment centers around the Delaware Valley.
“I get people coming up to me all the time saying I read your book, I loved it,” Therien related in a telephone conversation. “I think it’s one of those books that will stand the test of time just because I think there’s a ‘blueprint’ in there.
“If you can find the blueprint or what correlates to someone who’s struggling with addiction or mental health, you will find the answer in that book. If you can’t, then you can call me and we will try to figure it out together.”
Therien has spent literally decades either on television or radio analyzing Flyers’ performances and currently he keeps his hand in this part of the business by working on radio pre-game shows.
However, in the past year since the book came out, reception to his work has changed a bit.
“I can’t go to a game anymore without someone mentioning the book to me,” Therien said with a chuckle. “I think the people the book resonates with most are the ones who are close to crossing the ‘finish line’ to complete recovery.
“I’ve had many people read the book and then reach out to us afterwards. I know when I was struggling so bad, I used to try to find company. I was even Googling celebrity alcoholics. There’s some solace in that to say ‘I’m not alone.’ I just spoke to a hundred people at the Union League (downtown Philadelphia). If they can find a problem inside of them through me, but also find the solution, then that’s the win I get out of the book.”
Therien holds the record for games played (753) by a Flyer defenseman. He played in the 1997 Stanley Cup Final and nearly made it to the big dance again in 2000. All those years under the bright lights and yet few outside the Flyers’ inner group knew he had a dirty little secret.
As former Flyer and current St. Louis Blues coach Craig Berube (who won the Cup in 2019) put it: “It takes courage for one to look in the mirror and admit something has to be done, not only for his own sake, but for the love of of his family, friends and countless fans who look up to that person as a role model.”
And that’s what Therien did.
Now he’s involved with Pennsylvania Recovery Center. This organization has addiction centers (after care) in Phoenixville, Fishtown and Cherry Hill, N.J. The Phoenixville facility also offers mental health services.
For more information, visit www.pennsylvaniarecoverycenter.org or bundyrecoverycenter.com
Back on the ice, Therien believes the Flyers are headed in the right direction. Since the book came out, Dan Hilferty has taken over as CEO and former teammate Keith Jones has been named new team president of hockey operations.
“I really feel like with Dan in there, this ship is moving in the right direction,” Therien said.
Therien and the Flyers had a brief parting of the ways a few years back but the new regime seems to be interested in “telling it like it is” and that suits Therien just fine.
“I had always been here and I had never done anything wrong,” Therien explained. “For 27 years I was here – it feels good to be back in the building (Wells Fargo Center), talking to the fans, seeing familiar faces. I’m just trying to bring back a little bit of relevancy to the team.”
Like most Flyers followers, Therien realizes this rebuild is not going to guarantee success overnight. But at least there have been some positive steps and encouraging signs from the young players.
“We understand it’s rebuilding,” Therien said. “There won’t be a parade in South Philly this year. But at least we’re getting back to things that are important; things that (team founder) Ed Snider built. Some of that was a missed step with the last regime and that just can’t ever happen again.
“I’m proud just to have played a small role in that. I’m thrilled to be back at the Wells Fargo Center.”