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Islanders ready to rally around Lehner

There seem to be certain traits that athletes possess that make them feel larger than life.  Whether it be the fame, the skills, or the flamboyant personalities, we never seem to think of athletes as humans.  Robin Lehner, the new goalie for the New York Islanders, was one of those athletes.  Until he wasn’t.

The Athletic recently came out with a piece on Lehner, one that showed the real struggles of a professional athlete.  In that article were issues more real than what seemed possible for an athlete.  Robin Lehner admitted to being addicting to painkillers, alcohol, and had suicidal thoughts.

Lehner openly spoke about his demons and revealed that he was diagnosed with bipolar manic disorder, a revelation that not many athletes would have spoken about.  We’ve seen a few high profile athletes speak about their struggles, including Kevin Love who was candid about his bouts with depression.  However, no one had ever seen an athlete make himself so vulnerable.

Robin Lehner is now clean, sober, and ready to move forward with his life.  He is excited for the fresh start he’s received with the New York Islanders, one of the few teams to take a chance on him after an up and down season with Buffalo.

The New York Islanders are also looking forward to a fresh start with Lehner, as they’ve seem to embraced the big Swede.  The Islanders were a team with no goaltending and very little fanfare before the season started.  Their former captain left them high and dry, and the only goaltender they had on the roster was coming off one of the worst statistical seasons in NHL history.

Along comes Lehner, who also stated he spoke with management, GM Lou Lamoriello, and Head Coach Barry Trotz.  The group embraces him and he signs a “prove it” one year deal.  Since he signed, Lehner has been hellbent on making the most of what could be his final opportunity.  According to Matt Martin, he’s been on Long Island since the summer working out with Martin, getting accustomed to Long Island life, and relishing every opportunity to work on his craft.

Fast forward to Monday afternoon against the San Jose Sharks, where Lehner proceeded to pitch a 35 save shutout.  The hard work is paying off so far, and he’s very grateful for it.  In what seemed to be a tear jerking interview on the ice with Shannon Hogan, first star Lehner, he spoke about his struggles and thanked the fans and his teammates for standing by him through it all.

The Islanders have many things to rally around this season.  There’s the notion that they’re nothing without John Tavares, and that they’ll be a much worse team this year than last.  There’s the notion that they signed a bunch of washed up free agents and that no one wants to play on Long Island or in Brookyln.  There’s a new sheriff in town in Lou Lamoriello, and a new constable in Barry Trotz.  There’s also a new captain, Anders Lee, who personifies the word leader and who is willing to do whatever it takes to succeed.

However, out of all the rallying points and reasons to prove everyone wrong, none seem to be stronger than the Islanders’ new goaltender.  The Isles have fully embraced Lehner, and if Lehner can keep his head straight and work on staying consistent in net, it could be a beautiful relationship.

Whatever the case is, mental health is a serious thing to consider.  Most people don’t think about it, and most of those who do don’t talk about it.  Having a prominent athlete like Lehner be able to speak about his own struggles and have his team rally around him will only help all those affected.  Having an athlete like Lehner gives people hope.

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