As one might expect, an autobiography from a former National Hockey League star includes plenty of detail about his formative years and how he became a pro.
But Reggie Leach, a member of the 1975 Stanley Cup champion Philadelphia Flyers, also delves into the dark days of his life in a memoir published this month, The Riverton Rifle: Straight Shooting on Hockey and on Life (Greystone Press, 2015). This 10-chapter chronicle of Leach’s life—through his formative years being raised by his paternal grandparents after his unwed biological parents were unable to provide for him, to the drinking that ruined his career and broke his first marriage, to his metamorphosis into a role model of healing.
Leach, who played 13 seasons in the NHL, grew up in the Manitoba community of Riverton. He earned the nickname the Riverton Rifle for his accurate shot, which saw him net a total of 482 goals. He was known not only for winning a league title but also for being selected as the NHL’s most valuable player during the 1976 playoffs.
Chances are Leach could have enjoyed perhaps an even longer career. But in a pair of chapters of his book titled “The Fall” and “The Rebirth,” Leach discusses the role his heavy drinking played in ending his pro playing days, not to mention his first marriage. It is why he checked himself into a New Jersey rehab facility in 1985.
Prior to entering rehab, Leach writes, he could tell that his life was spinning out of control. Though some might call them the darkest days of his life, Leach views them as a gift, since they led him to start a new, healthier journey.
Today, Leach, sober for 30 years, is a successful aboriginal role model. Over the years he has talked to numerous First Nation youth and adults who have managed to also straighten out their lives. Besides being a motivational speaker, Leach operates the Shoot to Score hockey schools with his son Jamie, where he stresses to all participants the importance of making good life choices.
The athlete’s memoir will appeal not only to hockey and sports fans but also those just looking for a good read. It’s written for readers of all ages.
Leach, like the rest of us, is human, with a story that provides plenty of inspiration to others. He realizes that many will make bad choices throughout their lives. His message is that that what is done afterwards is what will ultimately determine one’s future.
Taking responsibility is a major factor, and he stresses the importance of not blaming others for one’s own choices. As an aboriginal role model now, Leach is a motivational speaker and hockey instructor who attempts to steer youth on a straight path. Like the Riverton Rifle, Leach is now a winner.