He will not, however, pretend that he has left that world entirely behind. Last December the Kings were in Detroit when Karalahti went out and, he says, "got a little crazy with the drinking." The next day he was late for practice. "The only time you worry about Chief is when you don't see him," says Norstrom. "Most guys, when they're late, it's not a huge deal. With him, we worry: Where is he?"
The Kings immediately sent Karalahti to Los Angeles, where he tested negative for drugs. He entered the NHL's substance abuse program and since then has undergone twice-weekly testing for drugs and alcohol. Karalahti says he was touched that the Kings cared. "Now I have to stay out of trouble," he says. "I have to get myself to work every day."
Karalahti lives in a town house overlooking the Pacific with Susanna, whom he met 6� years ago in Finland and married in May 2000. He's in the second year of a three-year, $2.4 million contract, but he is always aware, he says, that he could lose it all with one misstep. In Helsinki, school groups ask Karalahti to preach to kids about the evils of drug use. He refuses. "I can't do it, it's too close still," he says. "You'll hear a song on the radio, and it will bring you back to that time, you know? I have a great wife and a beautiful girl, and the money's crazy right now. But I can't say I'd never go back to the drugs. I don't think you can ever say that."