Robin Lehner has done enough talking. At least publicly for now.
The Vegas Golden Knights goaltender has spoken with both the NHL and the NHL Players association about his concerns regarding injuries, mental health and prescription drugs. Tuesday, he met with reporters at the Golden Knights’ practice facility, City National Arena, and explained his motives and his hopes that something good will come of his comments on Twitter over the weekend.
“What happened over the weekend was a cry for help,” he said. “I don’t want to see players suffer in silence anymore.”
Lehner said while he went public with his concerns, he wanted to keep his conversation with league officials private. He did say that there will be more communication with both the NHL and the NHLPA going forward and he believes the league is sincere in its willingness to listen to what he has to say.
“It’s been a really hard 72 hours,” he said. “A lot of emotions. But some joy in that we reached some conclusions and have established communications that I hope will help future generations. I believe there is some change that will come to light.”
Lehner wanted to make it clear that his intention was not to injure the NHL with his Tweets over the weekend.
“I’m excited for the potential change that can be made for younger generations; I’ve been advocating that for years and I’m encouraged by the approach they want to take to build on that,” Lehner said in part during his opening statement. “I will always advocate for mental health and advocate for this league. But moving forward, I’m going to look to help in a more private matter.”
Watch Lehner’s opening statement:
The Golden Knights have stated publicly their support for Lehner, who is bipolar and has been treated for depression and other mental health issues during his 12-year NHL career. He said that meant a lot, along with support he has received from players, both past and present.
“It means everything to me,” he said of the Knights organization. “They’re very diligent and careful about everything here.”
This all started a week ago when Lehner appeared on the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast and spoke out about the treatment his former teammate, Jack Eichel, was receiving from the Buffalo Sabres as it pertained to a procedure to repair a bulging disk in his neck from an injury Eichel sustained last March.
“I know Eichel. He was my captain,” Lehner said of his former Sabres teammate. “I know his family. I have tremendous love for his dad. I know they’re not lying and I can’t stand by to see a player go through similar things.
“We all worry about his neck. But what about his mental health?”
Later in the week, Lehner took to Twitter and began dealing into the issue of prescription drugs being handed out to NHL players without it coming directly from a physician. That caught everyone’s attention, including that of the NHL.
Lehner said it was important that people understand he is not anti-NHL but rather pro-mental health.
“I don’t want to fight the league, and I don’t want to throw any of my fellow players under the bus,” he said. “I want to implement change.”
Lehner said, to the best of his knowledge he was not going to be disciplined by the NHL or the Golden Knights. However, he said going forward he will handle his concerns privately.
“I’m encouraged about the approach they want to take and build on that,” he said of the NHL. “I’ve tried many avenues to bring some change that I’ve gone through in my career. But moving forward, I will bring my concerns in a more private manner. Things with the league will stay behind closed doors.”
He also hoped he didn’t cause a distraction in the Knights’ locker room.
“I don’t want to cause a distraction for my team” he said. “They’re going for a Stanley Cup. I’m going for a Stanley Cup. This is a huge issue for me. Lives matter more for me than Cups.”
Lehner, who has more than 127,000 followers on Twitter, said he can’t change what he said. But he said whatever backlash he may have received from his Tweets, he can handle it. Especially since it resulted in a conversation with the NHL.
“No matter what happens to my image or what people think about me, they can make their own judgement,” Lehner said. “I’m fine with that because this is a huge step in the right direction.
“I’m just here to help. But the league will be the league and the players will be around to implement change and it will benefit all of us. Not just the players, but the teams. That’s all I want.”