Former NHL defenceman Fogarty dead at 32

Former junior hockey star Bryan Fogarty, a first-round draft pick of the Quebec Nordiques whose pro career was derailed by personal problems, has died at 32.

Fogarty was visiting friends in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and was staying at a local condominium project. His friends were unable to wake him Wednesday morning and he was pronounced dead at 12:23 p.m.

"It appears to be a cardiac death at this time," said Myrtle Beach coroner Robert Edge.

Fogarty's wife, Jennifer, told the Globe and Mail from their home in Brantford, Ont., that her husband had gone to Myrtle Beach on Monday to do some deep-sea diving with her uncle.

"When my uncle went to wake him for breakfast, Bryan was dead. The coroner told us Bryan died of an enlarged heart."

Fogarty, a native of Brantford, was an Ontario Hockey League superstar in the late 1980s. He was named Canadian Major Junior Hockey Player of the Year in 1989 after breaking Denis Potvin's record for points by a defenceman in one season with 155 in 60 games with the Niagara Falls Thunder.

The Nordiques drafted him in the first round, ninth overall, in the 1987 NHL Entry draft.

Fogarty played 156 NHL games from 1989 to 1995 for Quebec, Pittsburgh and Montreal.

He finished his NHL career with 22 goals and 52 assists, but was never able to fulfill the promise that had made him one of the most highly touted junior players in Canada.

Instead of NHL fame, Fogarty's hockey career took him to 17 different pro teams around the world.

"When the Nordiques drafted (Fogarty), they took him before Joe Sakic," former Nordiques coach Michel Bergeron said Wednesday night in Montreal. "At the time, they were comparing him to Bobby Orr. Maybe he wasn't another Orr, but just to be compared to him is a great thing.

"He had the skill, but obviously he had a real problem off the ice," Bergeron added. "It's really sad. He was a nice guy, and he had great talent."

Gilles Leger, the former Nordiques assistant GM, said the club tried to help Fogarty with his personal problems, and even sent him to an alcohol rehab clinic in Minnesota and provided him with a psychologist.

"You have to understand that when a player has a drinking problem, it's very difficult and there's a lot of pressure," Leger said in Montreal.

Fogarty had struggled with alcohol abuse for years. In 1999, he was found naked inside a Brantford high school and was charged with breaking and entering and possession of a controlled substance.

He was granted a conditional discharge, placed on probation for one year, and was ordered to donate $500 to a local addiction service after he pleaded guilty to one count of mischief.

Fogarty's former teammates were shocked and saddened by the news of his death.

"It shocked me," said Patrice Brisebois, a teammate of Fogarty's with the Montreal Canadiens from 1993 to '95. "He was so young. I don't know what he was doing recently, but he was a great athlete, a great hockey player. Great skater, great shot, it's just too bad he had some bad problems off the ice."

"He had so much talent, so much ability and it was wasted," Philadelphia Flyers centre Keith Primeau told the Globe and Mail.

"He was one of those guys whose actions off the ice cost him millions of dollars," added Primeau, who played with Fogarty in Niagara Falls. "I kept waiting for him to emerge as an NHLer. I was pulling for him to make it as a player because I wanted to see how he would stack up against the game's best. He had that much talent. He was in a class of few."