Known as "The Turk," Derek Sanderson was a tough centre who had it all and then lost everything.
Sanderson grew up in Niagara Falls, Ontario where he played for the hometown Flyers of the OHA. The highlight of his young career was winning the Memorial Cup championship in 1965. He went on to sign with the Boston Bruins where he played alongside Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito. Sanderson was awarded the Calder Trophy for best rookie, the year after Orr won, in his first full season with the team, in 1968. He became known as a tough guy who wouldn't back down from any fisticuffs and was likely the best two-way player in the game.
Winning two cups with the "Big Bad Bruins" in the 1969-70 and 1971-72 seasons helped Sanderson rise to celebrity, becoming one of hockey's first rebels. He grew his hair long and sported a moustache before it was fashionable, and he even hosted his own talk show. He lived the life of a playboy and carried it to extremes.
When the WHA was formed, the Philadelphia Blazers came calling with a contract and a large sum of money for The Turk. After the Bruins told Sanderson they couldn't match the offer of over $2.65 million, he bolted. Sanderson became the highest paid athlete in the world. This lasted for all of eight games in the WHA. His style both on and off the ice didn't sit well in Philly and the team bought out his contract. The Turk found himself back in a Bruins sweater for the rest of the season and then was traded to the Rangers in 1974.
Already with a drinking problem, Sanderson bounced around from team to team--the Blues, Canucks, and Penguins--until retiring from the game in 1978. After numerous bad investments and a drinking habit to support, he ended up on the mean streets of Chicago and New York. At one point, he waited for a bum to fall asleep on a bench so he could steel his booze.
After help from friends, Sanderson got the help he needed and went into rehab. His body was broken down from years of abuse, and he needed several surgeries to repair his hips so he could just walk. He now stands on his own two feet and guides other athletes away from the horrors that he put himself through. He is an investment specialist with Boston's State Street Research Company that helps athletes manage their money properly so they won't have to go through the life of Derek Sanderson.