Following Robin Lehner’s brutally honest account of his mental health and addiction struggles in The Athletic on Thursday, where he revealed his bipolar 1 diagnosis as well his battles with depression, alcohol, and sleeping pills, his former teammates have come forward with their support.
The 27-year-old New York Islanders goaltender, who was drafted by the Ottawa Senators in 2009 and played with them until 2015, when he was traded to the Buffalo Sabres, signed with the Islanders in July after spending time at an Arizona rehab.
“Wow, I didn’t know that. Having played with Lenny, I wouldn’t have noticed all of that. I noticed he liked to have his beers like we all do, but I didn’t know the extent of it by any means,” Bobby Ryan told Sportsnet. The Senators winger commended Lehner ongoing public with his story, acknowledging that it takes courage to reveal your weaknesses and vulnerabilities to the world.
In his essay, Lehner writes about having a "major, full-blown panic attack" during the second period of a game against Detroit on March 29, 2018. At first, the goalie thought he was having a heart attack, but the team doctors convinced him otherwise. He was sent home where he drank heavily to ease the anxiety before waking up in the middle of the night to tell his wife he needed to go away.
"He has total support and understanding it's a process and a day-to-day battle for him. He is a talented young man who can help us, but we need to help him." https://t.co/ydS8cLEZbr— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) September 14, 2018
Lehner also talks about having suicidal thoughts and dealing with depression, saying he was drinking a case of beer a day and taking pills to sleep. The day after his panic attack, he called the NHL/NHLPA treatment program and went to Arizona where he spent three weeks in detox before beginning treatment.
Cody Ceci, who became friends with Lehner when he was a rookie, believed his behavior was related to his frustration with hockey.
“His weight has fluctuated at times in the summer when I’d see him. I guess that would show him being almost sick of the game and letting go over the summer and not training. So, it doesn’t surprise me in that sense,” the Senators defenceman said. Still, Ceci recognized that reading the essay was tough since he considers Lehner a friend. “I hope he’s doing all right now and he has a clear mind. That’s great,” Ceci added.
Senators right winger Mark Stone was also unaware of Lehner's struggle. “He had that fire in him that you can’t really teach,” he said. Adding that he isn’t surprised that Lehner has been so honest since he has always considered him a brave person. He also said he is very proud of the goalie, reminding him that he still has friends in Ottawa and always will.
The Islanders have also shown their support for their new recruit. Coach Barry Trotz stated that Lehner’s health has to come first, and believes that by sharing his story, he may help others. The two discussed his struggle and agreed that by talking about it, Lehner was showing strength not weakness. The coach is certain that by helping Lehner be better in his personal life, he will also be a better player.
Trotz told NHL.com, "It starts with the person before any X's and O's or anything else. Robin sharing it, I think it hopefully gets other people may be in the same situation to maybe step forward and say, 'You know, I need some help in this area,' because it is a very difficult thing to have to go through."
New Islanders teammate Matt Martin also showed his support, tweeting, “It takes a special person and a lot of courage to share details of your life struggles. Excited to be on the same side this season! If you don’t think you have the time to read this, I recommend you find some.”