Robin Lehner can take solace in the fact that no matter what happens with his pending meeting with the NHL regarding his recent Twitter outburst on mental health and drugs, his organization and his teammates have his back.
The Golden Knights goaltender remains in the news Monday, 48 hours after he used Twitter to call out the league, its players association and individual teams, mainly the Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers. Lehner’s first target was the Sabres, his former team for the way they’re handling the situation with Jack Eichel.
It then spread to use of prescription drugs Ambien and benzodiazepines without prescriptions and specifically attacked the Flyers and their coach, Alain Vigneault.
Lehner walked back the allegation of Vigneault assisting in his team giving its players any drugs, telling thedailyfaceoff.com: “I just want people to know that I didn’t say that he gave them out People should understand I don’t mean that the coach gives out the pills. I know how he has treated players with mental issues.”
Vigneault and Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said publicly they had not participated in any such exercise. Vigneault said he had never coached Lehner, who had called him “a dinosaur.”
“I don’t know the young man (Lehner),” Vigneault told reporters. “The two things he said about me … Dinosaur? I consider myself experienced. Dinosaur? You could say with experience, you become a dinosaur, maybe.
“But I do know I’ve been coaching a few years. I am tough. I am demanding. But I care about my players. I want their best. Through the years, there’s probably been some guys that liked me, some maybe a little bit less. But I’ve done it with the best intention, with respect.
“Like I said, I don’t know the young man that said that. As far as the other thing, me pushing pills? I don’t need another income. I have no idea where that comes from. I don’t know what else to say. I have no idea.”
Golden Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon addressed the situation Monday afternoon in Henderson, where he attended the opening day of the Silver Knights’ AHL training camp.
“Robin is very passionate about advocating for-layers and effecting change in a positive way,” McCrimmon said. “I spoke to Robin a number of times out the past couple of days. I’ve spoken to the National Hockey League. I know Robin has spoke to the Players Association and I believe there will be a good discussion that takes place centered around Robin’s concerns. If there’s more that needs to be brought forward after that process, we will.”
McCrimmon said he had spoken to Fletcher regarding Lehner’s Flyers comments but did not elaborate.
Captain Mark Stone addressed the subject following Monday’s Golden Knights practice at City National Arena.
“Robin is probably the most vocal guy when it comes to mental health and talking about it and supporting his teammates,” Stone said. “He’s very talkative with us on the Eichel situation and he’s good friends with him and wants what’s best for him. So I’m not surprised.”
Alex Pietrangelo said: “I support Robin for sure. It’s impressive to see how much he cares. I’m proud of him for speaking up.”
The team had spent the weekend in Montana at owner Bill Foley’s ranch for an opportunity to bond and relax before the final push to the preseason. It gave Lehner time to relax and think as well as heal up from a minor lower body injury he suffered Thursday in Salt Lake City in the Knights’ 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings.
Lehner was back on the ice for practice Monday but did not address the media afterward.
This is not the first time Lehner has spoken out. He went on social media last season when the NHL refused to relax its COVID-19 protocols for players and teams that had been vaccinated.
“It’s been a tremendously hard time throughout this COVID thing, with my mental health condition. Being in isolation, getting these rules. I can’t do anything but be in my home, all the time. Be in a hotel room, all the time,” Lehner said.” … They’re talking about competitive edge instead of human lives. Competitive edge. Human lives. We are humans too.”
The Knights play in Denver Tuesday against Colorado, have Wednesday off, then host Arizona Thursday at T-Mobile Arena. Perhaps Lehner’s meeting with the NHL comes Wednesday. For now, Lehner is practicing, preparing for the season and the team doesn’t see it as a distraction.
“It might be a distraction for you guys,” Stone told reporters. “For us, we support everyone in our locker room no matter who it is. Everyone gets treated the same in our locker room no matter what. We’ll support anything he does because he’ll support us under any circumstances and we’ll do the same for him.”