It’s late in the morning on Wednesday, January 31, 2018.
Today is #BellLetsTalk day, a huge day in the sports and hockey community for anyone who advocates and supports mental health initiatives. While the message is mostly driven by large corporations, pro athletes, and popular talking heads on social media, there are so many ways people like you and me can let friends, followers, and family members know that we’re learning, listening, and talking about ways to promote mental health.
Right now I’m in my office, hunched over my wooden L-shaped desk, pounding away at my keyboard. I’ve already had way too much coffee this morning so my mind is racing, but I feel so laser focused and inspired. It’s a beautiful day down here in Castle Rock, Colorado, but you wouldn’t know it from where I’m sitting. I can’t really see anything other than my walls, my three monitors, and the constant blur of people going back and forth around the office. Phones are ringing, printers are humming, and everything’s moving at a fast pace.
I know there’s a whole world out there, weaving their tales of frustration, success, and despair. But it’s hard to consider and contemplate all of that when I already have so much going on right in front of me. I have scholarships to finalize, orders to ship out, and events to direct. Everyone seems so darn busy these days, which is a small analogy to what this whole initiative is all about. When we come face-to-face with another human that might be coping or struggling with a mental illness, they may seem bright and sunny on the outside, but on the inside, there’s so much going on that we just can’t really see.
And since we’re so busy, we rarely take the time to stop, listen, talk, and help. But we want to…we really do care.
As a long-time mentor for many young goalies in the United States, every time this day rolls around, I’m hungry to get more involved. I’ve been educating myself on sports psychology, long-term athletic development, and a cornucopia of other performance-related topics. I’ve spoken with guys like Corey Hirsch, a friend of mine and a huge advocate for this program.
But this year, right now, on this day, I am putting all of my time and energy into taking action. Not tomorrow, not next month, but TODAY.
That’s where this “Lift The Mask” idea comes from. It’s something I just randomly drew in my notebook, and as a Creative, I have way too many random doodles and and designs like this one. Most of them end up collecting dust or slowly and eventually evolve into other projects, but I don’t want this one to fall into nothingness. I want it to be a spark for a mental health awareness program specific for goaltenders and goalie coaches RIGHT NOW.
I’ve been aware of the mental struggles that goaltenders face for most of my life. I’ve faced them head-on myself ever since I was 12 years old. But my personal stories aside, it was the stories I shared from NHL goalies that really allowed me to start making a difference. Our book “Embracing The Grind” (co-authored by my mentor Mike Valley) delved into some of the tougher issues pro goalies face as a whole; from anxiety to OCD to excessive worrying and performance anxiety. It’s a terrific read for anyone who might be struggling or dealing with a tough stretch in their journey as hockey players and I’m happy to send you a free copy if you’re really struggling and need help, but don’t want to talk to anyone about it just yet.
In the preface, I opened up about the influence music has had on me, and in particular, a band that wrote a song that really struck at the heart of the matter. It made the analogy about goalies wearing a mask. While we wear a mask on the ice to protect ourselves from serious injury, oftentimes we wear an emotional mask off the ice as well. Every day, we’re prone to masking certain emotions, whether we realize it or not. Goalies understand what this means, and it’s a big part of our daily lives.
Now that this nonprofit foundation is growing and making bigger strides, I’d like to open up our doors to creating a new project or program that supports mental health and awareness specifically for goalies.
So if anyone out there is reading this and has any ideas or information on how The Goalie Guild could create a mental awareness program, PLEASE reach out! I’ve set aside $500 to get things started. I’m here all day to discuss ideas and get the ball rolling. It’s not a lot of money, but it’s a start, and just like my annual scholarships, I’m dedicated to raising more money and awareness to make it happen.