LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Glen Metropolit has scored over 100 points in six seasons in the National Hockey League but no amount of success will erase the memories of the gangs, pimps and crackheads of his youth.
Raised in poverty by a single mother and shuffled in and out of foster homes, hockey became an escape for Metropolit and a way out of one of Canada's most violent and drug-ridden inner city slums.
Metropolit estimates he moved 20 times within Toronto's Regent Park as a youngster and the Boston Bruins forward's hockey career has been just as nomadic.
"Hockey was my escape," Metropolit said. "It was my outlet. I had a group of about five friends and we would play any kind of hockey. Ball hockey in the summer and ice hockey in the winter. It was always hockey."
He now patrols the right wing for the Bruins -- his fifth NHL club in six seasons. Metropolit is enjoying his best season and has a career high 30 points in 70 games.
Metropolit also leads the team in game-winning points with 11 and is the Bruins' nominee this season for the Bill Masterton Trophy which is awarded to the player who displays sportsmanship, perseverance and dedication to hockey.
But Metropolit doesn't need an award to remind him how he scratched and clawed his way out of the housing projects.
"My childhood was hard," Metropolit said. "I would be taking the garbage out and there would be someone there doing crack.
"My mom did everything she could but it was tough. I bounced around as a kid and there were money troubles so my mom had to send us to a foster home for a while. I saw it all."
When his mother couldn't afford the bills, Metropolit and his younger brother, Troy and sister, Nicole, were shuffled in and out of foster homes.
Metropolit could have ended up like his younger brother Troy who is languishing in an Ontario prison for his role in one of Canada's most notorious kidnappings.
Convicted, along with two others, in the kidnapping and torture of a prominent lawyer and his wife, Troy's 16-year sentence is one of the longest in Canadian history for that type of crime.
But Metropolit was determined to not let his surroundings stifle his sense of self esteem.
Linda Metropolit says Glen was a good kid but when he did act up she learned how to deal with it.
"All I would have to say is 'No hockey tonight', and he would be crying," she told the Washington Post. "And I would never have to do it again. He'd ask for a licking instead.
"We had to drag him off the ice to get him to eat," she said. "There were lot of freezing cold days and there's no one there but him. He's the only one smacking the puck against the boards."
Hockey equipment costs a lot of money and Linda couldn't afford to let Glen compete at the top level so he played in community leagues until he was 17.
After a one-year stint in the British Columbia Junior Hockey League, Metropolit signed a letter-of-intent to play for a US college but he couldn't get in because of low grades.
Instead, he landed in Nashville thanks to a connection one of the junior team coaches had with the East Coast Hockey League club.
After scoring 61 points in 58 games in his first season (1995-96) of pro hockey, Metropolit played in Florida, Quebec and Michigan over the next five seasons before being signed as a free agent by the NHL's Washington Capitals in July 1999.
He played 138 games over parts of the next five seasons with the Capitals and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
After a couple of years with teams in Switzerland and Finland in the European leagues he returned to the NHL in 2006-07 for his first full NHL season where he split time between the Atlanta Thrashers and the St. Louis Blues.
The married father of three now tries to pass along his knowledge to his own children who enjoy a much different childhood than their father's.
"My mother always told me to 'chase your dream'. She would say 'follow your dream and believe in yourself,'" said Metropolit.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »