Mental Health in the NHL comes front and center.
In the United States and Canada, mental health has come to the forefront in recent years. The war against terror and other conflicts have brought PTSD, depression, and anxiety into the mainstream, and they have become a common part of our vocabulary.
The NHL was no different. A few days ago, the NHL PR released a statement saying Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price would enter the Player Assistance Program. While this in and of itself is not a big deal, players enter this program for a variety of reasons. It was an Instagram post released by his wife that caught everyone’s attention.
Angela cited his mental health in an Instagram post showing Price and their three kids.
“Part of the privilege of being in the position our family is in, is that we also get a public platform to show how there is and can be a path for anyone who is struggling,” she wrote. “No matter what is on the line, we hope we can communicate the importance of putting your mental health first not just by saying it, but by showing up and doing the work to get better.
“Carey’s showing up for himself and our family and making the best possible decision for us.”
She added “it’s incredibly important for us to show our kids that asking for help and letting yourself be supported by others is not just OK, but encouraged — any time, and under any circumstance.”
Price, entering the program, also comes on the heels of Vegas Golden Knights goalie Robin Lehner‘s Twitter tirade. Lehner accused Philadelphia Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault of giving prescription medication to a player.
Lehner, 30, went public in 2018 about his mental health issues and alcoholism. He became the voice of mental health issues for the players.
Last season, just before the playoffs, Montréal Canadiens Jonathan Drouin left the team because of mental health issues. At the time, not much was known, and the fanbase was a little mystified and baffled to say the least.
Drouin spoke about his struggles with TSN/RDS in an interview before the pre-season started.
“That’s where it hit a wall for me. It was time to step away from the game. Literally, take a step back from everything and enjoy life,” said Drouin, about his leave of absence due to insomnia caused by his anxiety. “It was hard for me to do at that time — obviously, the playoffs were coming around.”
Montréal Canadiens fans welcomed him back with a rousing round of applause when he came out for warm-ups in his first preseason game since taking his leave of absence.
La période d'échauffement est en cours au Centre Bell!
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) September 27, 2021
These are a few examples of how mental health is being looked at differently in the NHL and society in general. But we still have a long way to go.
In 2018, Jake Allen, then of the St. Louis Blues, missed a game against the Winnipeg Jets to allow him to have a mental reset.
Blues fans were relentless in their criticism of Allen. To be fair, Allen did not ask for the game off nor did he ever state that he needed a mental reset. It was St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong who made that statement.
While this was in January 2018, many fans still hold it against him today. In a recent post in a Facebook group, one fan brought up the fact that [Jordan] Binnington has never needed a mental reset as Allen did.
Mental health still holds a stigma with a large portion of society. It is something we know exists, and that we turn a blind eye to it or talk about it in the deepest, darkest recesses of our minds.
As someone who deals with mental health on a daily basis, I find it refreshing to see these issues brought to the forefront. In the season finale of the Apple + television comedy “Ted Lasso” the titular character had a panic attack during a recent match, and a reporter writes a story about it.
While meeting the press, Lasso speaks about mental health and athletics. It would be naïve of us to think that our sports heroes don’t deal with this.
Too many times, we expect our stars to be perfect, as we stopped seeing them as just normal people when they make it to the big leagues. Athletics takes a toll both physically and mentally. Your career is short and everything you do is scrutinized.
While athletes are public figures, and their successes and failures are written about every day, we tend to minimize their successes and put their failures under a magnifying glass.
When a wide receiver drops a touchdown pass, or a pitcher makes a wild pitch during the playoffs or a hockey player misses a wide-open net, we tend to write and read about that more than any touchdown pass, strikeout, or goal.
The military also deals with the same thing. One thing that followed me around what was an active duty is the saying ” one awe shit ruins a thousand atta-boys.”
This saying also goes to show how we would rather see failure than celebrate success. At what point did we become perfect? None of us ever go through life without making mistakes, so why should we hold our stars and heroes to such a high degree. Even writers and editors miss things.
Madeline Merlo wrote a song about mental health called “War Paint.” She wrote this song for a friend who is dealing with depression. My favorite line and the opening in the song is “it is okay, to not be okay.” That is one of the secrets to life.
Merlo, who is Canadian, also supports the movement, #bellletstalk. Bell Let’s Talk is an entire day in Canada devoted to mental health. The next Bell let’s talk day is January 26, 2022.
Here in the United States the next day where we talk about mental health is….. That’s right, we don’t have one. It is time for all of us to take a step back and understand that mental health issues are not going away and that unless we start openly talking about them, we will continually lose 22 veterans every day to suicide.
Let us applaud Carey Price, Jonathan Drouin, Jake Allen, and Robin Lehner. Let us all applaud the NHL and others who are trying to make a difference.
While at the same time, let us all know we have a long way to go.
Till Next time Hockey fans,
Guy “Hawaii Hockey Fan” Bensing