What does the NHL/NHLPA need to do to help guys off the ice?
I don't think there is ever a good time to discuss this, as it is a hard subject to discuss. But in lieu of today' events, and how it hits us as a nashville predator fan community, I think it bears some discussion.
We have heard Bettman speak of taking a closer look at the substance abuse program. I don't think there is a problem witht he program itself, as we have seen one of the benefactors of that on our own team. I think the problem is getting from point A (disaster) to point B (help). now with jordin, he was given the "option" of getting help or not playing hockey. Not all guys have the luxury of an organization that seems to genuinely care about its players. But the question is how to help these guys identify they have a problem? I don't have an answer. Is it a team leader, a family member, a friend? Does the nhl need to be like the nfl and stalk all its players? Does there need to be a program where a player can tip off the organization or league anonomously that a guy has a problem? A contact for families to get hel for their loved ones?
Second part is when a guy's career on the ice is over, how far should the nhl go in helping a guy transition? Should there be a program post career that guys have to pass through to maybe recieve continued medical coverage? cant tell me guys wouldn't do it just to keep his family covered. I know all guys are different and 99 percent of them are fine when they retire. But maybe the nhl/nhlpa can help that one percent from leaving too young.
Even if his death is ruled accidental, which I think it will be, or natural, which is also possible, then I think the NHL should still look at ways of focusing on the mental health of its players without being too intrusive. It's such a touchy subject, and you cannot force anyone to seek help. Even if you could, they have to want the help for it to actually work. Belak himself said in the past that he would lie awake in bed at night if he knew he had to fight the next night. He said the nerves and stress of knowing what was likely to happen weighed on him before each game. I've heard that from other fighters as well. People who have played hockey have said that the guys who played the role of enforcer seemed to always be a different breed with their individual issues. Often times they had anger management issues, but they say the personalities would range. At very least the issue is worth some research. Any effort that is invasive likely isn't a good solution, though.
It's a double combination. You have guys who's careers are ending just as the psychological stigma of mid-life crisis occurs. Doesn't help that there is the complications of drugs, alcohol, fame, the terror of fighting.
If I had a say in this, if leagues and players associations listened to fans, here's what I would do.
A phasing approach to the change of career. When players reach a certain age or they are leaving the profession a commitee of peers and experts who guide them. Help them focus their lives into understanding that their lives aren't ending but they are at their peak. This is not something you want to do JUST as the change in life occurs but before.
Retirement is lonely. A commitee of veterans/retired players can be formed to provide social help, to be there to act as the crutch when the demon of depression strikes. And it does strike quick, I know. You must find a way to never let these guys to be or feel alone.
Counseling on a three prong approach:
Financial: Like Tyson Nash says, these guys are young and they are taken advantaged of. Much like with other professions, these players need a stable financial foundation to reduce the stress of the loss. If their is a lacking in their financials this is opportunity to fix this while the player still has time to save.
social: When you are a part of a team you have a family, you have a reason to be. They adopt these teams as their own. Think about it, one year you love a teammate enough to take 10-15 punches in the face, next year you have to cave their face in because of FA or a trade. Doesn't that sound sociopathic?
Medical: Individual counseling. Drug counseling, group therapy (Which may look more like a HOF reunion but still....) Not just at the end of the career but through their career. Create a solid foundation to reduce stress at the end of the career.
Veterans/retired players need to take a proactive approach. As soon as a player is done they take them under their wing and help them gather themselves and show them their world is not over. Help them with the grief. It's all about knowing they are not alone.
I was listening to TSN radio all last night. With my 15 year fight with depression all I was hearing is checkmarks on symptoms; Selflessness to the point of damn near sainthood, self-deprication, grim humor, etc.
All I heard was a man who valued others highly because he didn't have a high opinion of himself. He was selfless to his teammates because he saw they had more value that he had. How do I know this. I've been there and hell I'm there myself. The psychological term is 'dependance'.
I've been thinking about this as well - not only is it horrible to lose a human life but it puts the NHL back in the headlines for the wrong reason. I don't believe the NHL has any authority to take immediate action - makes me wonder if they'd like to put all enforces on some type of watch to stop this from happening.
They discussed this on the Team 1200 today and I think the options were "ban fighting, do nothing as it is purely coincidental that three enforcers passed away, or provide assistance and investigate". If this continues to happen to enforcers I think the NHL needs to work with GM's to redefine the enforcer position. They're in a tough position due to their instability and lack of ice time - but then again anyone can be in this position. I didn't see Roman Lyashenko suffering any ice time.
Adrian Dater wrote a great piece this morning about this issue. He didn't go all preachy or write a knee-jerk article. What he wrote about was his experiences behind the scenes with our beloved "goons" and what they actually go through in order to keep their job.
I've had the opportunity to get to talk to several enforcers throughout the years. They've all been extremely nice men. They've all had great personalities. The thing about it though is besides one guy (who had a very short career), they've all hated fighting and wished they could be doing something else. It's no coincidence that some of the greatest celebrations we see out on the ice where pure happiness shines through and makes you smile is when a "tough guy" scores a goal or makes a great play. That's what they grew up doing, that's what they wish they could be doing on a nightly basis...
For any of you that attended the "Bumps, Bruises, and Bedtime Stories" comedy show last season with Stu Grimson, Reid Simpson, Jim McKenzie, and Wade Belak you'll remember that McKenzie was a power forward that scored goals and played on scoring lines all the way through his time up till he fought in a preseason game for Hartford as a rookie trying to make the team as an 18 year old. When he spoke with his father on the phone after the game his father told him he just made the biggest mistake of his career because that's what they'd want him to do the rest of his career. McKenzie has two Stanley Cup rings, he even got to play in the Stanley Cup Finals with the Devils, but his father was right...he was no longer counted upon to score goals, when he was tapped on the shoulder he was expected to drop the gloves and fight...
in some cases(not all) it is how a played lived during his time in the NHL that causes the greatest damage after they leave the game
Belak had a job lined up for this season--many don't
lets wait to see WHY he died before he rush to say the NHL or NHLPA needs to step into the personal lives of the playear
to me, this topic shouldn't be a knee-jerk reaction to belak's death, it should have been looked at a while ago. No matter the circumstance of how it happened, it did. The question is, could it have been prevented with a stronger program in place, and I think it could. The program shouldn't start when a guy retires, but when any number of parameters are met. Basically, a group needs to identify when a guys career is a year or two from ending, whether from age or skill. It may not be popular, and this made up board could be wrong and a guyy could play another 4-5 years, but he would be prepared for the transition.
Attitidues like Brent Sopel's shouldn't be there. He tweeted something along the lines of "once you are out of the league you are forgotten. They treat you like a piece of meat." that shouldn't be the case with any nhl alumni.
I don't like Landsberg's comments describing his interactions with Belak. Belak sent him a text and then they spoke about a show he talked about depression. Then Landsberg apparently said "well how did you hear it you're in Nashville?" and Belak said he listened to it online.
What kind of an accusation is that? I live in upstate NY but I watch TSN every day...anything suspicious about that? No one in Nashville listens/watches a broadcast in other places than Nashville? I would think every NHL'er logs on in the offseason. Just a really fishy comment that makes me think Landsberg is full of it - if you haven't arrived at that conclusion already.