Then there were the pills and drugs and the women the former Boston Bruins star partied with.
Sanderson tells it all in a new book, “Crossing the Line: The Outrageous Story of a Hockey Original.”
“I’m different,” Sanderson said. “I have found that I really am different. There’s nobody like me. And not that it’s good or bad.”
Written with Kevin Shea, the book goes from a spur-of-the-moment cash purchase of a Rolls-Royce to sleeping under a bridge and stealing bottles of booze.
Known as the Turk, Sanderson won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie in 1967-68. He played for the Bruins, Philadelphia Blazers (WHA), New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks before ending his NHL career with a brief stop in Pittsburgh in 1977-78.
He had 202 goals, 250 assists and 911 penalty minutes in 598 NHL games. In his heyday, he could score, kill penalties and fight.
Away from the ice, the flamboyant Sanderson partnered with Joe Namath in a bar before starting his own string of restaurants. He would not bat an eye at gathering a group of friends — including three actresses and two Playboy Bunnies — and flying them to Hawaii on the spot.
The conditions were they had to leave with nothing more than the clothes on their back, and they couldn’t phone anybody.
Sanderson put everything on his American Express card.
Sanderson once fell asleep on the beach and woke up with a nasty sunburn on the left side of his face and back.
“I had a line starting on my forehead, running right down the middle of my nose,” he wrote.
Recovered to the point he could golf, he bought two sets of clubs and everything else needed to play. He ended up giving his clubs to his caddy as a tip.
“I did that a few times,” he wrote. “I had a bunch of money and I hate carrying clubs to the airport. It was the easy way out.”
Perhaps it’s no surprise a movie on his life is in the works.
The book details the 66-year-old Sanderson’s long list of injuries and eventual decline, both on and off the ice.
A fear of flying triggered his drinking. Pain in his hips prompted him to take barbiturates to help him sleep, paving the way for a laundry list of drugs.
Sanderson is not shy with his hockey opinions — Ken Dryden, for example, “wasn’t that good. He was just different.”
Sanderson uses the book to thank many friends and former teammates, Bobby Orr foremost among them, for helping him emerge from the shadows.
Today, he is married with two sons. He has remade his life, serving first as a hockey TV analyst and then learning the investment business.
Having lost much of his hockey earnings — he refuses in the book to even name the now deceased lawyer who handled his affairs — Sanderson now helps athletes manage their money as vice president of Baystate Wealth Management.
Orr was his first client, followed by Cam Neely, Joe Juneau and Glen Wesley.
His goal is to prevent today’s players from going through what happened to him.
“It’s an ugly day when they tell you you’re broke,” he said.
After 10 hip surgeries, he walks with a limp. He is a survivor of prostate cancer and two heart attacks.
Sanderson concludes his book is about conquering fear, which he sees as “God’s way of keeping you tentative about something that can harm you.”
“We avoid fear at all costs,” he writes. “Your career path is defined by your fears. … Courage is the ability to deal with fear. It took a lot of courage for me to face my demons.”
In an interview, he confesses a more basic motivation behind the book.
“College costs $58,000,” he said.