Bob Perno, long time friend and agent of former Washington Capitals center Mike Ribeiro, joined Montreal 690 on Thursday afternoon to address the dire situation currently facing his client.
Riberio has been dealing with substance abuse issues for a long time and has sought professional help over the years. Ribeiro looked like he was finally back on track to recovery, but after watching his play this past season, Perno noticed something was off. Ribeiro finished the season playing for the Milwaukee Admirals looking almost unrecognizable.
Once the NHL season ended, Perno had one more call with Riberio about how he needs to enroll back into the NHL substance abuse program and fully commit to it. Unfortunately, this was the final contact Perno had with Riberio and now nobody is able to reach him.
When asked if Riberio has hit rock bottom, Perno said, “All the experts say when you hit rock bottom that’s when you reach out for help, and he hasn’t reached out for help yet this year. He did a couple of years ago. Went into a rehab program and it helped. It lasted for about two years where he was clean. Then, he had a relapse probably just before Christmas.”
Currently working with Perno, to get in touch with Riberio, is Donny Meehan at Newport Sports and Dr. Shaw of the NHL’s substance abuse program. Riberio was attending his regularly scheduled interviews with the NHL substance abuse program, but stopped once he relapsed around Christmas.
“We’ve been trying to get a hold of him in Nashville, we know he’s somewhere in Nashville,” Perno said. “His family has seen him, his wife has seen him briefly, and then he disappeared into the woodwork. And we’re trying to get a hold of him, he doesn’t answer his phone. Nobody hears from him.”
One of the larger questions is why this might be happening and what might have caused Riberio to relapse. Perno has a couple of theories including the status of Riberio’s current role in the NHL and how it has started to change as a result of his age, despite having a positive adjustment to Nashville.
“This past year, Mike’s role was really diminished, he started the season off on the third and fourth lines, third for the most part,” Perno said. “And I think it affected him mentally, getting older, having trouble seeing what he was going to do once it was all over, I think it affected him and his play suffered and consequence. His confidence, his play, and, personally I think, just about at Christmas time or shortly thereafter, and whether he’ll admit it or not, I think he was a little depressive and that was it.
“He went to see the coaching staff and asked why he wasn’t playing and they told him to smarten up and act like a professional hockey player,” Perno continued. “They tried to shake him up as much as they could, but he didn’t react. One game he had like two points out of three, or three points out of four, and then the following two games he was in the stands. So, he blew up, went in to see the coaches and demanded a trade. It was downhill from there. That’s was the straw that broke the camel’s back right there.”
Riberio has a family history of substance abuse and combined with the fact that he was having problems with his wife, this might have caused him to be a bit depressed as well.
About three to four months before Arizona bought his four-year contract out (due to behavioral issues), Riberio’s wife left him and took the couple’s three kids with her. She could no longer handle his off-ice behavior, including the civil lawsuit that accused Ribeiro of sexually assaulting the family’s former nanny.
Riberio settled the lawsuit out of court two years later. Perno described the conversation he had with Riberio’s wife when she left.
“She called me and she was crying, and she says she still loves Mike and that the kids missed him and want him back, and so [does she],” Perno said. “And I told her something that is one of the hardest things I’ve ever told anybody. But for those three kids’ sake I told her, ‘Tam, you can’t go back. You can’t give into him. This is what you’ve been doing the last, six or seven years. You can’t go back to him. He keeps going off the wagon and everybody takes him back, so he does it again.’
“I said this time, ‘You can’t go back. You’ve got to think of those kids. You can’t go back. He’s got to get professional help, and the only way he’s going to do that is you staying with the kids,’ Perno said. “So she did, and she listened to me, and she told Mike ‘I’m not coming back to you until you get professional help.'”
After his wife left with the kids, Riberio entered a three-month long substance abuse program in Arizona, but he left only a month and half into the program. Riberio assured Perno that he was completely fine and he wanted to be back with his family.
“It is a nightmare, and it’s a very sad situation that a player with such talent who has had such a great career, a way better career than people anticipated,” Perno said. “He’s played over 1,000 games, had 17 seasons in the NHL, over 1,000 points. Not many Quebecers have done that, certainly, and he has. Such a great career and to end on this note… I’m sad and I’m worried. I’m just frustrated, because what else can you do?”
Perno noted that Riberio is not answering any phone calls from him, his wife, or his children. Riberio has no contact with his parents or his sisters. He had a talk with his mother-in-law about three week agos and she tried to “drum some sense into his head and he just backed off and walked away”.
That was the last anyone has heard from Riberio.
Perno told the press that we should be hearing about Ribeiro’s retirement soon.
“He doesn’t train anymore and he doesn’t go out on the ice anymore,” Perno said. “He’s going to retire.”
We’re hoping Riberio turns up soon and gets the help he needs.
Additional reporting: Madeline Dement.
Headline Photo: Bruce Bennett
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