With the deaths of three NHL players this summer the biggest question is, what comes next? What does the NHL and more importantly what does the NHLPA do?
All three deaths seem to have different circumstances and now everyone is trying to find common links between all of them to find one easy answer. I doubt there will ever be one easy answer.
Is it the mental anguish of having to force yourself to be a fighter over your whole career? Is it the mental anguish of facing a life after the NHL? Is it drugs? Is it pre-existing mental and emotional problems which were never properly identified and dealt with?
The NHL has to be completely supportive and a willing helper in trying to get to the root of this, but it is the NHLPA which must take the lead. This is clearly a player care issue and that is the domain of the NHLPA.
Programs already exist to help players with drug, alcohol and emotional problems but those programs largely rely on the player asking for help. Men in general and NHL players especially are not good at asking for help.
NHL players must always pass physical tests to ensure they are able to play. It appears as much vigilance and testing must be done to ensure they are psychologically ready to play and live this life.
Is it time for each NHL team to be required to employ a team psychologist and sessions with each player become mandatory and not voluntary? Many teams employ sports psychologists but their job is primarily related to helping players with the mental and emotional side of being on a team and performing at their highest level and less about how they are as a person and their overall emotional well being in life not just the hockey life.
It is obviously time for the NHL and more specifically the NHLPA become as concerned about a players emotions as they are about a players brawn.
See you at the rink.