Kevin Stevens posters

Former Pittsburgh Penguins star Kevin Stevens signs posters during a meeting with the Cambria County Drug Coalition’s recovery work group Thursday, March 7, 2019, at the Cambria Regional Chamber in Johnstown, Pa. Watching Stevens are (from left) Tracy Selak, Jason Rilogio and Rich Shade.

When Kevin Stevens was in federal court being sentenced for conspiracy to sell oxycodone, the judge realized the Olympian and two-time Stanley Cup champion had a platform and a personality that could be beneficial in the fight against the opioid epidemic.

So, along with probation and a fine, he was required to give a set amount of motivational speeches about addiction and the dangers of prescription drugs. He quickly met the legal requirements of the sentence handed out in May 2017.

But Stevens still continues with his mission through the Power Forward foundation.

On Thursday, he told his story to an audience gathered for the Cambria Regional Chamber’s annual dinner, held inside the Frank J. Pasquerilla Conference Center in downtown Johnstown.

“I think a lot of times when I do these events, they show a hockey video before,” said Stevens, who won the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and 1992. “That kind of opens people’s eyes. Anybody can get up there and just speak. But I guess it’s important that I have a voice because of what I did. I think people listen, and they get engaged a little bit because I played hockey. Whatever I can do to make it better and make it work is a bonus.”

Stevens was the featured speaker at the banquet that drew a crowd of about 400 people.

“I think it’s such an important message for the community,” said Amy Bradley, the chamber’s president and CEO. “We just hear so much about the problem and about people suffering. But then when you see that people can be successful and can go on to do great things, I just think it’s such an important message.”

Before the reception, Stevens met with the Cambria County Drug Coalition to learn about work being done by the organization.

“I think that adds empowerment to us, adds validation to our work,” said Ronna Yablonski, the coalition’s executive director.

Stevens’ road to addiction – and eventual redemption – started during the 1993 National Hockey League playoffs when he delivered a check during a game versus the New York Islanders that knocked him out and prevented the left winger from being able to stop his face from slamming off the ice when he collapsed. He suffered severe damage to his forehead, orbital bone, nose and brain’s frontal lobe.

He became hooked on pain medicine, an addiction that lasted more then two decades before he got clean.

“I think the biggest thing is that there’s hope. There’s hope for everybody,” Stevens said. “I’m a guy that took 20 years. It didn’t happen overnight for me. You just talk about decisions and choices. We all have decisions and choices in our life.

“You try to make the right ones. I made a bad decision, and it took me down a path. It took me a long time to get off it. It’s important that we make right decisions and good choices.”

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5056. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Sutor.

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