Former NHL player Kevin Stevens avoided a federal prison sentence following a hearing this week in U.S. District Court in Boston. Stevens, who played in the NHL for 16 years (1987-2002), including parts of 11 seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins, also starred at Boston College and for the 1988 U.S. Olympic team. In the early 1990s, Stevens was considered one of the most dominant power forwards in the game, playing on a line with Mario Lemieux and scoring over 40 goals in four consecutive seasons.

Stevens was charged in May, 2016 with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute the addictive painkiller, oxycodone. The criminal charges resulted from wiretaps and surveillance activity by the FBI and Massachusetts State Police into drug activity in the South Shore region of Massachusetts, which has been especially hard hit by the opioid crisis sweeping the nation.

Jackson Lewis helped to guide Stevens’ through the criminal justice process, in which he elected to plead guilty and accept responsibility for his actions. As more fully detailed in a sentencing memorandum filed with the Court, it was argued that Stevens’ involvement with addictive painkillers resulted from a devastating on-ice injury that he suffered during a Stanley Cup playoff game in May, 1993. Stevens was knocked unconscious while checking an opposing player and fell defenselessly face-first to the ice, resulting in multiple broken facial bones and a severe concussion. The injury required extensive surgery, the insertion of several metal plates, and over 150 stiches. To deal with the intense pain, Stevens was prescribed powerful painkillers, including Percocet, Vicodin and Oxycodone. Unfortunately, he developed an addiction to the drugs, which he battled for the next 25 years. It was the grip of this addiction which led Stevens to continue to seek out painkillers and eventually become the subject of an ongoing investigation by law enforcement.

Despite facing up to two years of incarceration, U.S. District Judge George O’Toole accepted the defense recommendation and imposed a probationary sentence and a $10,000 fine. Judge O’Toole was impressed with Stevens’ progress since his arrest, and his demonstrated commitment to sobriety over the past year. The Judge also commented that he believed that Stevens could be an effective advocate to young people concerning the dangers of drug use and addictive painkillers, and thus could make a contribution which might help solve the ongoing opioid crisis. Following the hearing, counsel for Stevens’ commented: “the sentence imposed today reflects the proper balance between punishment for criminal activity and a recognition that the conduct at issue resulted from a combination of head trauma and a resulting addiction to painkillers. Kevin Stevens has made great progress with his sobriety since his arrest in this case, and I am confident that will continue.” Stevens was represented by Paul Kelly and John Commisso of Jackson Lewis (Boston).