SAN JOSE -- As you scroll your Twitter feed looking for the latest information on how the Sharks plan to defeat the first-place Vancouver Canucks at SAP Center on Wednesday night, you're bound to come across a specific hashtag, and likely not just once or twice. Wednesday is #BellLetsTalk Day in Canada, an annual movement that advocates for mental health initiatives, and naturally, the NHL is very much involved.
Mental health issues are nothing new in sports, but Chicago Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner's acceptance speech for the Bill Masterton Trophy -- given to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to the game -- at the 2019 NHL Awards certainly advanced the discussion.
"I’m not ashamed to say I’m mentally ill," Lehner memorably said, "but that doesn’t mean I'm mentally weak."
While Lehner's comments enlightened viewers to the widespread pervasiveness of mental health issues, there is still so far to go. #BellLetsTalk seeks to carry the torch that Lehner passed on, and San Jose is in full support.
"I think you can see it through all sports," Sharks interim coach Bob Boughner said of increased mental health awareness. "There have been many athletes that have struggled with that or had a family member affected by that, and I think it's just important that it's not so taboo to come out and talk about it. If it can help one person out there, I think that's important. These guys have a role to play as being leaders in their communities. I think it's a great initiative and it's an important one."
Prior to Boughner's comments, some of his players had already fulfilled his leadership mandate. For every retweet of the #BellLetsTalk hashtag Wednesday, five cents will be donated to Canadian mental health initiatives, and several Sharks tried to bring attention to the cause.
Speak up #BellLetsTalk— Evander Kane (@evanderkane_9) January 29, 2020
Sharks forward Barclay Goodrow agreed with Boughner's claim that the players have a responsibility to use their elevated status for the benefit of others.
"Obviously, we have a bigger platform than the average person," Goodrow explained following Wednesday's morning skate, "so I think if we can show that we're susceptible to it just as much as the average fan and if we're willing to go get help and rely on other people, then there's no reason why people at home can't. As long as athletes and other people with a bigger platform can show that we go through these things too, then there's no shame in getting help if you're going through it."
Through his own experience as an athlete, Goodrow knows just how important it is to not ignore what's going on in between a person's ears. While not everyone is a professional hockey player, he believes the #BellLetsTalk discussion is a benefit to all, regardless of status or occupation.
"It's all about breaking the barrier of if you're going through something, not to be afraid to come out and say you need help or need to talk about it," Goodrow said. "Especially in the athletic world, you're kind of taught to battle through things or not show weakness and things like that, so when it comes to mental health, it's something you shouldn't have to battle through. You shouldn't have to try to conquer yourself. It's good if you get help and rely on other people to get you through if you're going through a tough time."
For anyone struggling with mental health, please remember Lehner's veracious words. We can be mentally ill, but that will never make anyone mentally weak. That's what #BellLetsTalk is all about.