HEADSTRONG

Sharks' Joe Thornton discusses importance of fitness in HEADSTRONG

Sharks' Joe Thornton discusses importance of fitness in HEADSTRONG

Joe Thornton has been around hockey his whole life. He's spent the last 22 years in the NHL. 

Hockey is a grueling game, both mentally and physically. It can wear you down and will take its toll if you aren't careful.

The Sharks forward is now 40 years old and has learned the importance fitness plays both in being a productive hockey player, and in being in the best possible mental state. 

"It took me a year or two to kind of realize, 'Hey, if I want to stick in this league, I need to be in top shape year-in and year-out," Thornton said as part of NBC Sports' documentary "HEADSTRONG: Mental Health and Sports. "It's become a 12-month a year job for me. I take a couple weeks off at the end of the year but then I am right back at it."

Once fitness became a habit for Thornton, it quickly turned into a way of life. He must go to the gym every day or else he won't be his best self. He recognizes the addiction to getting after it in the gym but knows it's vital to his overall mental health.

"I love coming to the gym," Thornton said. "It helps me -- also I get to work with trainers that are phenomenal. Mike Potenza, I love coming to the gym and working with this guy, To me it's fun. I enjoy it. I enjoy coming in every day, putting some music on, hitting some weights and feeling good about myself. If I don't do that every day then I just don't feel the same.

"I know I'm addicted to the gym. I love getting the sweat in. I love the camaraderie up at the gym. It's a big part of who I am now."

Being in peak physical shape has helped Thornton be a fixture in the NHL for two decades, scoring 413 goals and amassing 1,484 points.

As physical a game as hockey is, the mental aspect of the game is even more important. Being in shape and knowing he's put in the work in the gym, puts Thornton in the proper mental space to succeed on the ice. 

"Hockey is such a mental game," Thornton said. "It's like all the major sports, golf, tennis. It's major mentally and I think the healthier you come in, the stronger you come in, you are just mentally stronger. I truly believe that you have an edge on the competition. You are in peak shape. You feel good, you feel strong and nothing can stop you at that point."

[RELATED: Watch all of the vignettes from HEADSTRONG]

You can watch all of the "HEADSTRONG: Mental Health and Sports" vignettes right here. The full documentary will be playing all month on NBC Sports Bay Area and NBC Sports California.

Check our channel listings page for times and dates.

How to watch HEADSTRONG: Mental Health and Sports on NBC Sports Network

How to watch HEADSTRONG: Mental Health and Sports on NBC Sports Network

Mental health in sports in an important topic that rarely is discussed. Often times, players, fans and media alike are too focused on wins, losses, stats and milestones to see or discuss how players cope with the immense amount of stress that comes with being a professional athlete. 

In NBC Sports' new documentary "HEADSTRONG: Mental Health and Sports" athletes do their best to try to change the narrative surrounding mental health and sports. Joe Thornton, Charles Haley, Kevon Looney and other athletes from around the country open about their own personal battles with depression, anxiety, addiction and other mental health issues they fought while playing the sport they love and continue to fight.

"HEADSTRONG: Mental Health and Sports" has been running all November long on the NBC Sports family of networks and it will air again Wednesday night on NBC Sports Network following Flyers vs. Blue Jackets on "Wednesday Night Hockey."

You can watch all of the "HEADSTRONG: Mental Health and Sports" vignettes right here and can check out Devin Setoguchi and Sydel Curry-Lee appear on a panel at the NBC Sports Bay Area studios to discuss the film right here.

[RELATED: Ex-Giants coach Flannery details depression in HEADSTRONG]

Here's when and how to watch "HEADSTRONG: Mental Health and Sports" on NBC Sports Network:

When: Wednesday, Nov. 27, at 7:30 p.m. PT
TV Channel: NBC Sports Network

Ex-Giants coach Tim Flannery details bout with depression in HEADSTRONG

Ex-Giants coach Tim Flannery details bout with depression in HEADSTRONG

Depression isn't selective. It can hit any one of us at any time without warning.

Whether you're a major league baseball coach, high school teacher, stock trader or something else, depression isn't picky and it is hell on whoever it hits.

Former Giants coach Tim Flannery detailed his own bout with depression after the death of his father for the NBC Sports documentary "HEADSTRONG: Mental health and sports."

"When you're out there all alone, in cities away from support, it's really easy to have your mind go a different route and convince you of a whole bunch of things," Flannery said. "Because people lose their families, they lose themselves in the demand of the schedule and the demand of trying to win. 

"It's difficult. There was a year in [1999] after my dad passed away -- he died viciously of Alzheimer's and he was 73 years old," Flannery continued. "I was dealing with that every day then coaching in the big leagues every night. After that year, I went into a chemical depression where I couldn't get out of bed for 13 months. I was chronic fatigue.

"I didn't think I was ever going to get well again. Alone, weeping, medicating. It's not actually just the game but it's all that comes with it that people don't see that causes other reactions. But you've got to find a way to stay healthy."

For Flannery, it was his love of music that helped him during his bout with depression and throughout his playing and coaching career.

"If I didn't have my music, that saved me night after night," Flannery said. "Music therapy you realize what it does to you -- makes you feel really good. My music is my way to help others through performing. The music's been a great friend and it's gotten better and better and better. Just like anything else, you have to do the reps, you got to do the shows, you got to play the games, you got to play over and over and over to get to a point where you look back and you realize that if you work hard and if you prepare and if you dream -- some of those dreams can come true."

[RELATED: Watch all of the vignettes from HEADSTRONG]

You can watch all of the "HEADSTRONG: Mental Health and Sports" vignettes right here. The full documentary will be playing all month on NBC Sports Bay Area and NBC Sports California.

Check our channel listings page for times and dates.