Recognizing the intersection of sports and mental health is crucial, and it’s encouraging to see athletes prioritize their well-being by taking leaves of absence. For individuals struggling with anxiety and depression, even basic tasks can feel overwhelming. Extending that same understanding to professional athletes performing under intense public scrutiny underscores the importance of mental health in all aspects of life.
Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way.
Recently, it was announced that forward Patrik Laine would be taking a leave of absence from the Columbus Blue Jackets to focus on his mental health and well-being. He’s receiving support through the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program, allowing him to gradually return to team activities, including practices and games, as deemed appropriate by program administrators.
Some Blue Jackets fans, particularly those with online platforms, expressed criticism regarding Laine’s situation. Notably, during a recent episode of the B&B’s Round Table podcast, which focuses on discussions about the Columbus Blue Jackets, one of the hosts made comments that were very insensitive towards Laine’s circumstances.
“Laine’s out because he was contemplating a Remington retirement,” said someone on the roundtable identified as Zach, who drew a few audible laughs.
For those of us who don’t know, a Remington is a firearm brand, so a Remington retirement is a reference to one taking their own life or committing suicide.
Laine responded to a clip of the video, stating “This is just not okay.”
This is just not okay https://t.co/Apai7g6TRP
— Patrik Laine (@PatrikLaine29) February 12, 2024
Injuries have taken their roll on the 25-year-old Laine, whose return from a Dec. 14 clavicle fracture encountered a hurdle. This latest setback adds to a string of injuries that have plagued Laine since he arrived in Columbus via trade from Winnipeg in January 2021. These recurring issues have unquestionably limited his playing time and affected his performance on the ice.
His current absence from the team is likely linked to this recent development. While Laine previously addressed his earlier absences on social media, as seen below, the response above appears to be his first public comment since then.
“After careful consideration and discussion with my support network and the team, I have recognized the importance of prioritizing my mental health and well-being,” Laine said on Instagram. “Hockey has been my passion and my life, but I have come to realize that in order to perform at my best, I need to take this time to focus on myself.”
Obviously, instances like these don’t allow for Laine to do just that.
PSA: If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health and needs help, the National Suicide and Crisis Hotline can be reached at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).