The Colorado Avalanche are making a difference both on and off the ice.
In this instance, it sees the number of players taking care of themselves increase by entering the NHL Players Assistance Program. The Avs have had three players enter in the last two years, with several following suit.
The three for Colorado include Bowen Byram to help in his recovery from concussions, Sam Girard for anxiety and depression, and Valeri Nichushkin for personal reasons. Recent entries outside the Avalanche include the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Patrick Laine, Detroit Red Wings’ Jakub Vrana, and Florida Panthers’ Spencer Knight to name a few.
The sight of professional athletes reaching out for help and asking for support is great, much different than it was even a few years ago. Hockey players are human too, and this only exemplifies it further with players entering the program.
We have seen the difference in Avs players in particular returning to the side. Byram has been relatively healthy since making his return last season and has been taking care of himself. Girard looks like a different person after entering the program earlier this season and has been excellent on the ice.
Casual 3 assist night for Sam Girard.— Evan Rawal (@evanrawal) January 17, 2024
Avs are 7-2 since he returned to the lineup.
It’s a different look in a culture where you’re meant to play through injury, show toughness and grit, and never let anything get under your skin. This culture may be causing an uptick in depression or anxiety, hence leading to players entering the program.
If players continue to enter the program looking for assistance, we may see a big shift in hockey in the future. It’ll still be focused on competition, but also focus on mental health and players taking care of themselves off the ice before being at their best on the ice.
Nonetheless, hopefully everybody in the program now and in the future will get the help they need to be better off the ice first. We’ve seen the difference it can make once players return to the ice.
THIS GOAL BY VRANA pic.twitter.com/xQGlIotblC— Springfield Thunderbirds (@ThunderbirdsAHL) January 27, 2024
Maybe once those players do return to the side, they can uplift and encourage other players to get the help they may need. Time will tell to see how players adapt to utilizing the program down the line.