The Maple Leafs are hosting a Mental Health Awareness night vs the Colorado Avalanche, Saturday, January 22, 2018, the game will kick off 7:00 PM(EST) for those in Canada, please watch for those in the US and outside, find a way. The Leafs will join forces with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health(CAMH), one of Canada’s largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital. This night comes at perfect time for society because as much as we know about mental health we often do not pay attention to it nor care for it. And the Leafs head coach is known to be a mental health advocate, his work alongside many mental health organizations is causing a conversation in the right direction for the NHL as a whole. His work he does with his own line of “Babsocks” and the money made through his selling of socks gets donated to a mental organization. This is won’t be the last time we see an NHL team does something of this nature.
The Leafs to host a Mental Health night…
The Maple Leafs are doing something out of the ordinary when it comes to mental health. Not many teams talk about it nor pay attention to it, but it is such a harrowing issue among sports. Especially NHL players. Too many times have we heard about an NHL player being suicidal due to not “feeling right”, the trauma to the head, the expectations being a professional comes with, the role of who you are on the ice, the reputation of the game. Being invested in one game for an entirety of one’s life has an effect. Too many times do players walk away from the NHL with a poor support system or no real plan set up for life after hockey. This leads to dark days, dark roads, and an uncertain future. The most recent story I can think of is the one done by TSN Hockey, highlighting the effect hockey had on Matt Johnson and his family. The former NHL player is now, homeless. Or a very well-spoken individual on this topic former goaltender Corey Hirsch opened up about his time at the NHL level and what he was dealing with mentally, let alone physically.
The reason this brings up such a topic of conversation for me, well this is something I am very passionate about, and it is a game I am very passionate about. Too often do we see former NHL players walk away from the NHL feeling lost, uncertain and or scared to reach to others or ask for help. And not to point fingers but that is because of the atmosphere hockey has, the reputation of a hockey player, the gritty, hard-working, tough, relentless, ready for war attitude. The hockey culture does not lament those who speak about their issues or speak about their concerns. It is demonized weak or one is labeled as a “wuss” by many.
The conversation has definitely started, paths are being created for a more hopeful, clear future for former NHL players, others are opening about their story, the public is starting to catch on. But, still, there is still some stigma around mental health. Not many really understand the mental battles professional athletes go through, think about yourself, for instance, those days that feel tough or you just do not feel all there and just want to lie down, relax and let the day go by, knowing you just need a day off.
Well, unfortunately as NHL players(any professional athlete for that matter), NHL in particular though, cannot afford to just take a night off, when they feel uneasy or low. A season that runs from October to June(early), consisting of 82-games, and usually two points during that nine-month span teams have a total of two weeks off. Nights off are not a thing, taking a day to yourself is not a thing. Doing this for one season is a lot now imagine doing it for ten, eleven, twelve, etc.
The effects are real, they are out and there are so many people out there dealing with similar situations like you. Reach out for help and do not be afraid to speak your mind and let other people know how you feel. Do for you, be kind to others and realize that someone in your life may be dealing with some mental health difficulties, do not judge, be mindful, accept others, love those around you, be an outlet for those around you, strangers as well.
Everyone needs an outlet and not many have one, these are human beings out there, with families, friends and a life of hope ahead of them, nobody deserves to deal with the effects of mental health. Be a voice, be an outlet and most importantly, be compassionate.
Way to go Toronto for hosting such an amazing night, hope the Leafs win, sorry Conner(Av’s fan).