It’s a sunny summer morning in Toronto and
Glen Metropolit is back home. Well, not exactly. Home is actually a little west of the Starbucks where he’s sitting. To be in an upscale coffee shop at all has to be considered a triumph for him. That’s because Glen grew up in a neighborhood called Regent Park, which was one of the most notorious and densely populated projects in Canada. Constructed in the late 1940s, it was established to narrow the divide between the poor and the well off. The social experiment ended in disaster. Just a stone’s throw from the financial district where billions of dollars flow every day, Regent Park was once described by a local newspaper this way: “Living here is like getting kicked in the teeth.” The area has been gentrified in recent years and now includes mixed income housing, but back in the day it epitomized the dead end street for the disenfranchised. Glen’s 83-year-old grandmother still lives in Regent Park, but when he comes back to visit in the summer he couch surfs at the homes and apartments of his old friends in the area. He’s used to that, since he moved about 50 times when he was a kid, by his estimation, including foster homes. Glen’s cellphone rings as he sips his coffee. It’s his younger half-brother, Troy Metropolit. As the two make plans, Glen says his brother’s name at the end of every sentence. “So, what time are you free, Troy?” “Should I pick you up at your girlfriend’s place, Troy?” The name sounds foreign coming from his mouth, given Glen just saw his brother in June for the first time in 16 years, when he was 25 and Troy 22. “I can’t believe I can just pick up the phone and talk to him whenever I want to,” he says.
A couple days later, it’s another bright morning in Toronto. Troy is in a small holding area at the halfway house in which he lives. He’s required to check in twice a day and be back by 10 p.m. He must let his parole officer know where he is at all times, including calling in if he’s changing locations. He’s a free man, but his definition of free is relative. “Welcome to my castle,” he says while sitting in a lounge during one of his daily mandatory check-ins. “I have a piano and a TV and everything.” Troy, 38, is talking about how he recently discovered a caterpillar on his pant leg while he was on the subway. He took it in his hand and held it for five stops before placing it on a leaf once he got off the train. “My girlfriend said, ‘That’s crazy. You killed a guy and you save a caterpillar?’ ” Troy says. “Why not? It didn’t do nothing to me. And then it turns into this beautiful butterfly.”
You’re probably wondering what all of this has to do with hockey. Fair enough, but if that’s the case, you’re not familiar with one of the most unlikely careers in NHL history. Glen played 407 games in the NHL with seven teams. In his last season, with Montreal in 2009-10, he had a respectable 29 points in 69 games and helped the Canadiens to the Eastern Conference final. Since then he’s played in Switzerland and most recently Germany, where he helped the Mannheim Eagles to the German League championship. At 41, he just signed another one-year deal with Mannheim.
Glen should have been drafted in 1992, but since he was playing one of the lowest levels of high school hockey in Toronto, he was nowhere near the radar of NHL scouts. But of the 264 players drafted that year, only 40 of them played more games in the NHL than Glen did. Only 29 scored more goals and just 34 had more assists and points. More remarkably,
Sergei Gonchar was the only one from that draft still playing in the NHL. Most have been retired for at least five years now. All this happened despite the fact Glen had to overcome a host of obstacles just to make it to the NHL. While most other kids in his cohort were beginning the craze of 1-on-1 skills training, Glen was playing house league hockey, never working his way up to AAA. He wasn’t drafted into the OHL or NHL, instead jumping to a Jr. B team out of high school hockey because his friend was already on the team. He had scholarship offers from Bowling Green and UMass-Lowell that were revoked by the NCAA clearing house, saying he’d have to redshirt a year before being eligible. So Glen worked his way up from the lowest rung of the minors, taking summer jobs laying sod until something called the Long Island Jawz called him asking him to play pro roller hockey for $400 a game. Then there was his upbringing, which was surrounded by drugs, poverty and addiction. Glen has never met Marty McGee, an ex-Hell’s Angels biker who’s his biological father. Linda Hachey was just 17 when she became pregnant with Glen. Shortly after she and McGee broke up, Linda met Bruce Metropolit, Troy’s biological father. The only time Glen saw Bruce as a child was when he visited him in jail. With his stepfather in and out of the penal system, Glen would often watch hockey games on Saturday night while his uncles drank beer and smoked weed, and then he’d go play men’s league hockey with them. He moved around incessantly, mostly because his mother couldn’t afford to raise her two boys. “Bless my mom’s heart, she did the best she could,” Glen says. “I remember living with my aunt, my grandmother, in foster homes. It was crazy times for my mom. There was so much chaos – all the houses where we were, the drugs, the whole environment. I just remember I always wanted to get out of that environment and just go play hockey.” Glen recently had his mother and grandmother down to Florida for a visit. It was then that he was told one of his mother’s brothers had committed suicide while in jail. His grandfather was so addicted to alcohol that his mother recalls going out to buy rubbing alcohol for him. Glen’s grandmother watched her husband die of an overdose in front of her. It was in this crucible that his mother was born, and through Glen’s and Troy’s childhoods, she was never able to escape the cycle. Every time they would move out of Regent Park, circumstances would conspire to drag them back in.
Glen would go to church as a child to pray to God to become an NHL player. When he wasn’t playing the lowest level of house league once a week, he’d find his salvation on one of the two outdoor rinks in Regent Park. And everywhere he went, he would stickhandle a tennis ball. In the fall, he’d stickhandle around the leaves on the ground. “It was like Wilson in
Castaway,” Glen recalls. “Just me and my ball.” You wonder how two brothers, coming from the same circumstances, facing the same obstacles, can embark on such divergent paths in life. Glen was in trouble only once when he was kid, sent home from school for breaking a window. His ascension to the NHL is not unheard of – former NHLers
Tim Thomas and current NHLer
Joel Ward have similar beginnings – but his ability to both overcome his situation and avoid the patterns of behavior he was exposed to are what make him unique. Troy, on the other hand, was always in trouble. His career as a criminal started early, after he stole a G.I. Joe from a department store when he was eight. Linda tried to put Troy into hockey, but no coach could ever handle him. As Glen got more immersed in sports, Troy got more involved in petty crime. About the time Glen was beginning to forge his NHL career in the late 1990s, his younger brother was well established as a career criminal. Stealing cars was his forte, but he’d happily take pretty much anything that didn’t belong to him. “I’d break into stores, steal clothes and bikes and whatever,” Troy says. “I liked it, it was quick, it was easy. I used to think, ‘Oh, whatever, they’ve got insurance, no big deal. I ain’t confronting nobody, I ain’t hurting nobody.’ Smash a window in a clothing store or something, run in and grab, like, 15 leather jackets – quick easy couple grand in, like, a minute.”
Eventually Troy landed in jail for two 18-month sentences, one for robbing a jewelry store and another for resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer. But then came the night of Jan. 6, 1999. While Glen was in the midst of an 80-point season in the IHL that would lead to his first NHL contract, Troy and two accomplices were planning a “bump and rob,” where you bump the car in front of you, and when the occupant gets out you shake him down and go on your way. What was supposed to be a quick robbery turned into the kidnapping of a prominent Toronto lawyer named Schuyler ‘Skippy’ Sigel and his wife, Lynn. Troy was driving a stolen car when they saw their mark, a rich couple driving a Mercedes in an exclusive Toronto neighborhood. After Troy sprayed mace in Sigel’s face, one accomplice beat him and his wife and put them in the trunk of the car. From there, they were driven to an 19th floor apartment in Regent Park where they were pistol whipped and forced to give up the security code to their home and the PIN numbers for their bank accounts. “At one point in time we’re thinking about just carjacking for the car to try to sell the car, and then it just kind of spiralled from there,” Troy says. “We’re like, ‘Well, how much we going to get for a car?’ And then you bump in and you’re like ‘Well, let’s get their bank accounts,’ and then it just seems to snowball sometimes. More and more. And then you’ve got them and you’re like, ‘Well, f---, let’s ransom him now.’ You know? You already have them. So, instead of taking their money from their credit card, you’re, like, ‘Well let’s call their family and tell them we want 100 K.’ ” The couple escaped when Troy and one of the accomplices left to get a bite to eat and the third accomplice, who was 17 at the time, fell asleep. Troy was sentenced to 16 years in prison (reduced to 14 years on appeal) for kidnapping, assault and forcible confinement. The trial judge called the crime, “gratuitous and subhuman violence, a crime that goes beyond pure horror,” and said Troy and his accomplices were, “career criminals who had intentionally embarked upon a violent criminal path of life and had treated jail and the criminal system as mere occupational hazards.” Troy’s older accomplice also received 16 years. The sentences were, at the time, the longest ever in Canada for carjacking. “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t relive the terror of that night,” Lynn Sigel wrote in her victim impact statement prior to sentencing, “the deep fear, hearing the piercing voices of hatred screaming through my brain.” But it was three years into his sentence that Troy committed his most heinous crime. Glen was in his fourth season with the Washington Capitals organization, bouncing to and from the minors but continuing to plug away. The night of April 15, 2003, Troy and another inmate at the Millhaven maximum security prison got into an altercation. It ended with Troy stabbing Marlan Assinewai 22 times in his neck, back, chest and abdomen. The inmates were watching a hockey game at the time, and the prison guards originally thought the yelling was from overzealous hockey fans. Troy explains prison culture when he talks about what happened. Just a couple weeks before, he’d been stabbed himself in the head and the back over an altercation about the queue to get into the shower. He said he was stabbed because he didn’t take a threat seriously. After the incident, Troy went back to his cell and got his cellmate to give him homemade stitches, because going for medical attention would have labelled him as weak. Jail politics, he calls it. He says any sign of weakness is pounced on by other prisoners, and any sign of disrespect, either real or imagined, can’t go unpunished. The wrong word can get you killed. If you’re bullied into giving up your phone time, you’ll be seen as a target. Even bragging about his brother being in the NHL would have caused trouble, so Troy never mentioned it and would only talk about it if someone asked him. While Glen was riding buses in the minors and learning the pro hockey culture, Troy was quickly learning the prison life. While Glen was applying a blowtorch to curve his sticks, Troy was burning plastic dinner trays in his cell and rolling them under a book until they congealed to become as sharp as an ice pick. While Glen had to occasionally stand up for himself on the ice, Troy was forced to guard his life every day. “It’s either you or him and he’s a violent dude,” Troy says of Assinewai. “I kind of blacked out. I went in there thinking I got him a few times, but I didn’t realize it was that many. You just go in and you’re in a zone, you’re focused kind of, but you’re not. I was just thinking of going in and stabbing him a couple of times and hurt him so he goes to the hospital or leaves the jail, and then they won’t let you back most times. So a lot of times, that’s the way to get rid of the problem, because if you hurt him enough, they won’t let him come back, because they’ll say his life’s in danger.” Originally charged with first-degree murder, Troy pled guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to another eight years in prison. By the time Troy was sentenced, Glen was playing in Finland for Jokerit Helsinki, leading the team in scoring for two seasons. What was supposed to be a career in Europe turned out to be a three-year stint that ended when the Atlanta Thrashers signed him after he led the Swiss League in scoring in 2005-06. That was the beginning of a run of four straight seasons in the NHL during which Glen played for five teams. It was a glamorous life filled with riches, which was what his brother wanted but could only hope to attain by living a life of crime. Both Glen and Troy had escaped Regent Park, but they couldn’t have taken more divergent paths out. Sitting in a Coffee Time, Troy shows one of his many tattoos. On the left side of his chest is a tattoo that says “Route 187. No Remorse.” The 187 signifies the section of the California Penal Code for murder, which is used by gangs as a synonym for murder. And the “No Remorse” rings as true for Troy as it did 12 years ago. He feels badly for Assinewai’s family, but not for the man he killed. “I would rather take the life (sentence) than have some guy attack me and put me in a wheelchair, stab my eyes out or something,” Troy says. “I didn’t want to kill him, but at the same time I really don’t have any remorse for killing him. Not really. Like, yeah, I feel a little bad. So I have some remorse, but not enough to really lose sleep over it. Like, that might sound a little cruel or unhuman – I don’t know – but when you live in it in there, that’s the way it is.” Throughout their childhood, both Glen and Troy were surrounded by drugs and alcohol, but neither succumbed to them. Troy committed his crimes not to fund an addiction, but because it was an easy way to make a living. He’d smoke weed and do ecstasy at raves, but it wasn’t what drove him to commit crimes. “I just loved money,” he says. So did Glen. So much so that he was willing to sign with Yaroslavl in the KHL for the 2011-12 season, one year after leading his Swiss team in scoring. Yaroslavl was offering a one-year deal for $1.2 million, more money than Glen had ever made. But his then-wife refused to go, so he re-signed with his Zug team for $400,000. That September, the entire Yaroslavl team died in a plane crash that killed 44 people.
Glen has been playing in Europe for five seasons now, four in Switzerland and this past season in Germany. He no longer scores goals the way he used to, but he’s found a comfort zone playing the European game and has always thought the game at a high enough level that he can still compete. He has a one-year deal for next season, but he has no idea what the future holds for him in the game. He and his ex-wife, Michlyn, whom he met when he was playing in the ECHL with Pensacola, finalized their divorce last summer, though they are still close friends and have the bonds of their three children, 13-year-old Alivia, 10-year-old Max and eight-year-old Esther. “I’m older now, but I feel like I’m 25,” Glen says. “I love working out and I feel strong. I don’t know when it’s going to end, but I’m going to just keep riding it out.” When you come from an upbringing as chaotic as Glen’s, you never plan too far ahead. He says he’ll keep playing until nobody’s willing to pay him a decent wage to keep doing so. In the meantime, he returns to Florida in the summers where he and Michlyn run a fitness studio called Otium, in the Pensacola suburb of Destin. The front of the store has a juice and salad bar and high-end apparel, and the back has hot yoga, TRX and Pilates studios. For a kid from the projects, it doesn’t get much better. Meanwhile, Troy has been living in a halfway house since his parole in November. He spends much of his time with his girlfriend, an old friend he kept in touch with throughout his incarcerations. He’s randomly tested for drugs and alcohol, and if he ever tests positive, he’ll be sent back to prison. He tries to get by with temp work and receives $85 a week for meals. Despite having different fathers, Glen and Troy, who are separated by only three years, look almost like twins. They both have shaved heads, and they laugh and smile easily. Theirs is an uneasy brotherhood, though. Glen never visited his brother in prison, and the two acknowledge they’re just getting to know one another again. As kids, Glen was into sports and Troy was into petty crime. Glen had a hard time understanding what motivated his brother to do the things he did and an even more difficult time trying to convince him to stop. They grew up together, minus the times they were split up when they were in foster care, but Glen wasn’t sure what to think when his brother first reached out to him after he was released. “I wasn’t sure how I would feel because I didn’t know him,” he says. “But as soon as we talked the first time, I realized, ‘Yeah, he’s my brother and I do love him.’ It was a weird feeling when it all starts to come back.” Glen and Troy have a sister, Nikki, who lives in a suburb of Toronto with her three children. Their mother married a third man, had a daughter with him and has since escaped Regent Park, earning employment as a bus driver for the Toronto Transit Commission, working as Linda Lafferty. When the brothers met this summer, the first thing Glen did was take Troy shopping for a new pair of shoes. After all this time, Glen hopes they can once again become a family. “I’m doing my thing, but I want to help him any way I can,” he says. “He has a great support network here. I try to help him financially because I know it can be hard. Hopefully he can stay on the straight and narrow.” Troy is committed to staying out of the penal system once and for all. At 38, he’s trying to find work, but the resume is a little sparse. His most recent job was working at a kitty litter factory. His time in prison coincided with Glen’s NHL career, and he laments the fact he never got to watch his brother play live. And heading to Germany to visit him is out of the question, considering he’s a convicted criminal with a violent past. “I missed his whole career,” Troy says. “But I’m happy for him. He’s done good for himself.”
This feature appeared in the August 17 edition of The Hockey News magazine. Get in-depth features like this one, and much more, by subscribing now.