Former Sabres goalie Robin Lehner leads NHL’s mental health discussion

Mar 7, 2018; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner (40) looks for the puck during the second period against the Calgary Flames at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 7, 2018; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner (40) looks for the puck during the second period against the Calgary Flames at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports /
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Former Buffalo Sabres goalie, Robin Lehner, continues to do so much more than save pucks; he is also saving lives by bringing awareness to mental illness, particularly bipolar disorder. Robin is not seeking attention but opening the eyes of many to the struggles faced by athletes and many non-athletes alike dealing with mental health concerns.

When Marc Andre Fleury was traded recently from the Vegas Golden Knights (Robin’s current team) to the Chicago Blackhawks, Lehner faced ridicule on social media that his “erratic” behavior led to Fleury’s departure, which is frankly ridiculous. According to multiple players, Lehner has been a great teammate and role model. He just became an easy target of those lacking knowledge on mental illness or who don’t care to educate themselves on it.

https://twitter.com/RobinLehner/status/1420165337576771587

Lehner is a human first and foremost and whether he plays in the NHL or not does not dictate whether he has mental or physical tribulations. He should not be judged or stigmatized in any way.

In fact, the goaltender position is one of the most mentally challenging roles in all of sports. Goalies need to focus, block out negative thoughts after giving up a goal, and oftentimes single-handedly lead a team to victory.

If anything, Lehner is more mentally tough than most athletes. Having said that, he is still dealing with a disorder that has no cure; so why can’t some people realize that just like a broken leg, the mind can also be broken? The mind and body are connected so why are they judged differently?

The answer is that we live in an “or” society; you’re either weak or strong; you’re either happy or sad. In the end, we are all humans and we are all susceptible to mental health problems, some more than others.

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Robin Lehner is doing everything he can to remind us all of that and continues to share his story and encourage others not to follow mental health stigmas. As society continues to evolve and open itself up to mental health discussions, I foresee this former Sabres player and leading voice in the league continuing to lead that charge, especially as a representative of the NHL.