Reggie Leach using troubled past to inspire youth

Reggie Leach using troubled past to inspire youth
January 26, 2014, 9:00 am
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Reggie Leach is proud of his time with the Flyers, but he's more proud of the work he's doing now, using his own troubled past to do some good. (AP)

Everyone has a special memory of their trips to the Flyers Wives Fight for Lives Carnival, but Sunday’s version figures to be extra special. Many of the surviving members of the Flyers' two Stanley Cup teams will be present.

For Reggie Leach, however, this is even more significant.

Flyers Wives represents the best in sports humanity when it comes to the effort the wives and families give in supporting charitable endeavors in the Philadelphia area.

In Leach’s case, the carnival is almost an extension of what he does most days of his life with the youth of First Nation in Canada.

A notorious drinker during his days as a Flyer, Leach has been sober now for 29 years. He has a story to tell First Nation children -- how drinking ruined his marriage, sent him into bankruptcy, and drove his family apart.

It’s a story he will tell Sunday at the 37th annual carnival, as well.

“I’m very lucky. I [had] an alcohol problem,” Leach said. “I went into rehab in 1985 and have not had a drink since then. Today, my work is with First Nation youth.

“I go around and talk about life choices and my experiences as a hockey player and what I did after hockey. I am more proud of what I do today than my hockey career. That was a stepping stone of getting me where I am now.

“Everybody has a journey in life. I have been lucky enough to accomplish mine in hockey and now I use that experience with what I accomplished to help youth so they don’t follow in the footsteps of what I did as a youngster.”

He feels he’s winning with some kids, but not enough of them.

“You’re never gonna win the battle,” Leach said. “You’re gonna help kids think about it. If I can talk to 100 kids and get two or three of them to listen, I did something, not just for the kids but for everybody.

“I speak the truth. I don’t hide nothing. I go out there and whatever I [say], I speak from the heart. I do it and I am very proud of what I do.”

Leach is more proud of his work with First Nation than the Stanley Cup he won in Philadelphia in 1975.

“The Cup to me is second,” he said. “My son [Jamie] won a Cup in Pittsburgh. I am more proud of what I do today away from the hockey rink with the young kids. It’s more important to me. It makes me more of a teacher.

“I don’t want kids to follow my footsteps. Hockey-wise, maybe. But bad life choices? No. What I do today ... I am very proud of what I do.”

There are 640 First Nation communities throughout Canada. Leach has spoke to about 200 of them and still has many more to visit.

“I’m not sponsored,” he said. “I do everything myself. I contact people. I speak a lot.”

On Sunday, he'll get to reminisce with teammates before going back to the harder aspects of what he now considers his real “job.”

“It’s a special occasion for us because it’s the 40-year anniversary and we haven’t seen each other in a long time,” Leach said.

“All of us were invited to come down for the Carnival and I think it’s going to be a great time. I’ve been with the guys for a couple days now and it’s been nothing but laughs. The stories got bigger and better every year and it’s just wonderful to be back in the city.”

Dunk me
Among the interesting events on Sunday, Ike Richman -- vice president of public relations for Comcast-Spectacor and a 25-year veteran of the company -- is going into the dunk tank at 3:45 p.m.

On his birthday, no less.

"The past 25 years have been the best 25 years of my life," Richman said. "I want to celebrate by giving back to the community who has really been my inspiration for all of the years."

Proceeds from the carnival benefit over 150 charities throughout the greater Philadelphia region.

Philly’s own David Boreanaz will serve as Carnival co-chariman.

Early admission is 1:30 p.m.