Joe Murphy, the first overall pick in the 1986 NHL draft by the Detroit Red Wings, vacated a motel room paid for by the NHL Alumni Association and is once again living homeless on the streets of Kenora, Ontario, in Canada.
Jeff Seidel of the Detroit Free Press reported Thursday that Murphy has turned down offers to help from the Alumni Association as well as former teammates and members of the community.
The 51-year-old London, Ontario, native explained he knew the motel arrangement was "going to end in failure" and said he prefers his freedom.
"I do like being alone," Murphy said. "I have a lot of energy. People are always coming after me to talk. Not physically. I can feel the spiritual stuff. I just like being alone in a room. When I'm out talking to people, it bothers me sometimes."
Bernice Albany, the director of a local shelter the 1990 Stanley Cup winner frequents, told Seidel she's concerned Murphy may be using drugs:
"I suspect he's using needles. It looked like he may have an abscess. One of our patrons said, 'I'm going to get a hold of the health unit.' They have a program where they drive around and distribute needles and whatnot, just to make sure these guys are getting clean stuff. Now, they have a doctor on board who will check out these things. The patron said, 'I'm going to phone them right now and have them look at Joe.'"
Meanwhile, Seidel reported Murphy is showing warning signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease often found in athletes who've suffered repeated hits to the head. The issues include depression, difficulty thinking, short-term memory loss, emotional instability and suicidal thoughts.
The 15-year NHL veteran, who retired after the 2000-01 season, said he's eligible for $75,000 in medical assistance from a lawsuit settlement to help former players who argued the league failed to protect them from head injuries, but he's not interested in the process to receive the aid.
"Now, what they have in place, it's another $75,000—I can go get," Murphy told Seidel. "But they have the NHL's doctors look at me. I'm not signing up for that. I don't want that extra money. I don't want them to check me out."
Murphy refused to discuss the potential impact of concussions during his NHL career but assured Seidel he doesn't blame anybody else for his situation. He added as of late "it's been going kind of better for me."