31 Thoughts: The Ripoff – An Honest Story

OPINION | 31 Thoughts: The Ripoff

October 9, 2021

I actually struggled to write this week’s article. The topic I had picked wasn’t inspiring me, and that combined with more pressure led to hours just staring at the blank page. The blinking cursor just sitting there under the word *intro*. So at 01:38 Friday morning, the day of my deadline, I restarted the article with a fresh idea. This entire time I had been struggling with my mental health, dealing with anxiety and the loss of motivation (caused by ADHD). I read articles, listened to my three minutes of fame, communicated with friends, did everything I could think of to “fix” my problem. And yet I overlooked the basis of every message I had been receiving, I forgot to be me

Me, the passionate hockey fan who loves to write. Me, the neurodiverse human who wants to make everyone’s day a little better. Me, the person that procrastinated on a computer science assignment until the night it was due.

The idea came to me when I saw the recently released news that Montréal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price had voluntarily entered the NHL/NHLPAs player assistance program. For background information, this initiative was put in place to assist athletes and their families with issues regarding mental health, substance addiction and abuse and other matters related.

It is unknown the exact reasons why the beloved goalie entered the program but many are applauding his courage, as they should. It is extremely hard to strive for change when dealing with one’s mental wellbeing, especially in Carey Price’s position as a person often in the spotlight. He is the face of the Montréal Canadiens and yet he had the spirit and moral strength to represent himself honestly, struggles and all. Many people often resign themselves to their fate and succumb to something akin to depression. This has resulted in many unfortunate suicides.

Among those cases are numerous hockey players, including former Vancouver Canuck forward Rick Rypien and rising Inuk star Terence Tootoo (Brother of Jordin Tootoo). Both died entirely too young and left the hockey world in mourning. And yet they stamped their mark on our world and our hearts.

Do well Jor. Go all the way. Take care of the family. You’re the man – Ter

— Terence Tootoo’s suicide note

In the wake of Rick Rypien’s death, the Canucks organization started an initiative to raise awareness of mental health and former Captain Kevin Bieksa often plays an active role in it. 

To this day Jordin Tootoo speaks on behalf of his brother and all Indigenous hockey players, as most experience depression and suicidal thoughts. In his autobiography All the Way: My Life on Ice he talks not only about his peoples struggles, but also his own. This unique display of courage had effects beyond what you and I can see. It touched many people’s hearts and helped them open up – most likely saving quite a few lives. “I just want people to understand that there is light at the end of the tunnel,” he said in an interview with CBC Nunavut. “I don’t want those hardships to end in a negative way with taking a life, and unfortunately we’ve experienced that with my brother Terence”

Due to decades of stigma and ignorance in both ordinary society and hockey culture, a good deal of people refuse to believe that their brain works differently. Everyone has mental health issues, whether brief or long-lasting. Regardless of who you are, anyone from a mailman or a star professional athlete can struggle with mental wellbeing. In fact, our cognition is the basis of who we are. It decides our thoughts, emotions and actions. It shapes our past, our present and our future. And yet so many people are in denial of this.

I respected it, but I think at that time, I didn’t fully understand what I was going through either.

— Tyler Motte

Tyler Motte, a Vancouver Canuck forward, was one of those people. He, along with his team, would post for #BellLetsTalk day, Tweet support of other athletes speaking about their mental health and participate in initiatives set up by the management. In the summer of 2019 Tyler Motte was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, and today he hopes to support and encourage others by talking about his story. He often talks about how hard it is to open up to someone, a sentiment shared by many dealing with mental health issues. Including myself. By stepping up and being vulnerable to not only his family and teammates but to the whole world, showed an incredible amount of courage and resilience. “Then, I might not have truly understood what I was doing,” said Motte. “I just knew what the cause was and the purpose. But now, going through my experiences, I understand how important it is.” He has inspired athletes and everyday people alike. Beforehand though, he was empowered by his own motivator; goaltender Robin Lehner.

He basically said, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing. It’s helping. You’re not alone

— Tyler Motte on Robin Lehner

Robin Lehner, goaltender for the Vegas Golden Knights has been speaking on this topic for some time, trying to bring awareness to neurodiversity. He is diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and often speaks about it. Throughout his career, he has spoken about the effects on the pandemic, substance abuse and being a goalie with bipolar disorder (among other things). He also is a huge advocate for players’ mental health in the NHL, especially now with the issue of Jack Eichel’s situation. 

Similar to physical injuries, when a player goes through severe mental strain they are forced to take a break from hockey altogether. Often the constant attention and sports culture negatively impact the already fragile player, compelling them to refrain from playing. In 2018 Robin Lehner missed the last two months of the season due to his struggles with his mental health. He was a part of the NHL/NHLPA players assistance program, similar to Carey Price. Another Montréal Canadien also took time off to care for his mental well-being, forward Jonathan Drouin.

Jonathan Drouin pulled out of last season right before playoffs for what the management referred to as a “non-COVID related illness”. But he revealed during training camp this year that it was caused by severe anxiety and insomnia. He had been dealing with it for years, but eventually, as it always does, reached a point where he couldn’t handle it. “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. The strength it would’ve taken to pull away right before the playoffs is unimaginable, especially in his line of work. Many other players speak about how hard it is to remove themselves from the thing they love most. “I’m proud of him for stepping away and worrying about his health.” said teammate Josh Anderson.

Many people and players forget that one’s mental wellbeing is as crucial as physical health. Both are so tightly interwoven that an injury in one would affect the other, as Jonathan Drouin had experienced. When his insomnia was at its worst he could not sleep for days, a major problem for a professional athlete. He, like others before him, had to take a step back. To take time to understand and embrace who you are physically and mentally. And then work from there towards change.

Humans are a complicated species. Each individual is like a tapestry, thousands of strings so tightly woven together to the point where you can’t find the ends. Sections such as mental and physical wellbeing are intertwined with each other. Trying to unravel and understand each piece is an impossible task, but it becomes easier as each person steps forward to reveal their story to say this is who I am. Carey Price, Hab, father, and goaltender extraordinaire with mental health challenges. Robin Lehner, Golden Knight, husband, and elite goaltender who is bipolar. Tyler Motte, Canuck, fiancé, and fan-favourite center who has depression. Jonathan Drouin, Hab, son, and star left-winger who has severe anxiety. Isabella Cadotte, daughter, friend, and writer who has ADHD. Who are you?

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