July 17, 2002

Ex-NHL star Glenn Anderson faces jail for not paying child support

Ottawa Citizen


Former NHL star Glenn Anderson is facing possible jail time for failing to pay more than $112,000 in child support for his 12-year-old son.

Anderson, 41, owns two homes in the Caribbean islands of Turks and Caicos and has a net worth of approximately $600,000. But in court documents, he claims he is "broke" and unable to find suitable work. He wants a B.C. court to reduce the amount owing and cut the monthly $2,961 he is supposed to pay to support his son, Nicholas.

Anderson last made a voluntary payment in 1998, according to the child's mother, Patricia O'Connor of Vancouver.

The former Edmonton Oilers star has not held steady employment since his 16-year NHL career ended with the New York Rangers in 1996. He spends much of his time golfing and travelling to charity hockey tournaments, according to court documents.

Now, the British Columbia agency that tracks down "deadbeat dads" is asking a provincial court to jail Anderson.

"We've brought a motion to have him jailed for contempt of court for his ongoing failure to abide by the court order to pay child support," said Paul Hundal, lawyer for the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program.

If the two parties "don't come to some arrangement by the end of the summer, we are proceeding with seeking jail time."

Jail time has been used before to compel payment in B.C.

Hundal says the program has also taken steps to have the court order enforced in New York state, where Anderson's wife resides.

Anderson declined to comment on the case when contacted at his Turks and Caicos home.

"For the child's safety and the best interest of the child, it's best to keep this out of the media," he said. "I've been fighting with (O'Connor) for a long time. The case is very delicate and the court has it."

Nicholas was the result of what O'Connor calls a "casual relationship" with Anderson in 1989, when she was a 27-year-old university student in Edmonton. Anderson was then a member of an Oilers dynasty that included Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky.

Anderson, who earned more than $300,000 a year playing for the Oilers, was ordered to pay monthly support.

Sometime in 1998, the payments ended and O'Connor lost track of her son's father. She located Anderson in the Turks and Caicos after reading a story about him playing ball hockey with other Canadians on the islands.

Now, citing his reduced income, Anderson has applied to court for a reduction of his $2,961 monthly support payment and the $112,000 in arrears. He also challenged whether he is Nicholas' father and asked for a DNA analysis. Results of the test, performed in May, showed Anderson is a 99.99-per-cent match with Nicholas.

O'Connor's lawyer, Pamela Boles, contends that Anderson has remained "intentionally underemployed" since leaving the NHL. His alleged disinclination to work is in violation of the support obligations, she says.

"He has to make the requisite effort to earn more income," Boles said. "That applies to professional hockey players as much to the rest of us."

In an interview with ESPN this spring, Anderson said his typical day on Turks begins with a session in the hot tub, followed by ball hockey. "I play just about every day. I also golf and fish," he told ESPN.

In his discovery testimony in May, Anderson allowed that his only paid work over the past three years was with the New York Rangers, who occasionally paid him $1,000 a night to sit with corporate clients at home games. He does 10 to 15 such events a season.

He claims he can't earn much money from celebrity appearances or selling his hockey memorabilia. "I think my hockey card is worth 13 cents," Anderson said.

He has also asked Rangers general manager Glen Sather, his former coach in Edmonton, for more stable employment with the team. His NHL pension will not begin paying out until he is 65.

In court documents, Anderson claimed he stopped making support payments because he thought he had a deal with O'Connor to pay her off with a lump sum of $85,000.

In his best earning year, Anderson made $1.25 million with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1993-94. But he appears to have lost substantial savings trying to cover margin calls after the stock market downturn in 2000.

In discovery, Anderson allowed that his current net worth is about $600,000, including his home and a rental property, both on Providenciales island in the Turks. But he said he would have to "sell everything" to pay off his child support arrears because of a depression in the Turks housing market.

Despite his arrears, in 2000 Mr. Anderson paid $17,000 US for a new dock and $7,000 US for a hot tub at his Turks home.

Although Anderson wants access to Nicholas, he admits in discovery he has never bought the boy a birthday or Christmas present, nor has he ever called to say hello. Nicholas knows who his father is and has seen him on TV, but he has had no direct contact with Anderson since a brief visit when he was five.

O'Connor, a single mother, says her son would love to play hockey, just like his dad, but she can't afford to buy him the equipment.

"He'd like to go to camp, play hockey, get a Game Boy," she said. "I'm thinking about paying my bills, whether I'm going to be evicted."

O'Connor was laid off from her job with a high-tech company in January and is two months behind in rent.

"The situation is getting really desperate," she said. "In two weeks, I really don't know what I'm going to do. Last month, I borrowed so much money from friends and family."

The case is back in B.C. family court next week.