Senators stunned by Robin Lehner’s struggles: ‘That takes courage’

Buffalo Sabres goalie Robin Lehner (40). (Jeffrey T. Barnes/AP)

KANATA, Ont. – Robin Lehner laid bare his mental health struggles Thursday morning in brave, detailed and important article he penned for The Athletic.

In his piece, the 27-year-old New York Islanders goaltender dives into his restless brain, revealing his diagnosis with bipolar 1 and his battles with depression, alcohol, and sleeping pills. Lehner says he went public with his story in hopes of helping others.

Lehner was originally drafted by the Senators in 2009 and spent the bulk of his pro career in Ottawa before being dealt to Buffalo in 2015.

Former Senators teammates were taken aback Thursday upon learning the depths of the pain Lehner had been hiding. And they all instantly expressed their support.

“Wow, I didn’t know that,” Bobby Ryan told Sportsnet. “Having played with Lenny, I wouldn’t have noticed all of that.

“I noticed he liked to have his beers like we all do, but I didn’t know the extent of it by any means. Good on him for coming out. You’re revealing not only to your friends and family but the world. That’s a widely read publication. You’re putting onstage your vulnerabilities and your weaknesses — and that takes courage.”

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Cody Ceci got to know Lehner as a rookie. The young defenceman simply chalked up Lehner’s behaviour to his getting frustrated with hockey.

“His weight has fluctuated at times in the summer when I’d see him. I guess that would show him being almost sick of the game and letting go over the summer and not training. So it doesn’t surprise me in that sense,” Ceci said.

“But it’s tough to hear. I consider him a friend, so it’s tough to hear when someone comes out with that, because you never really hear about it. They keep it personal.”

Thanks to his devotion to rehab in Arizona, Lehner has gone from contemplating suicide to a clean, healthy life.

The Islanders have thrown their support as Lehner embarks on his first sober NHL season. New coach Barry Trotz stressed that the person must take priority over X’s and O’s.

“I hope he’s doing all right now and he has a clear mind. That’s great,” Ceci said.

“It hurts you as a player sometimes if you’re being traded around and you have something going on. Then you have a bunch of new teammates that you don’t want to come out to and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got this going on.’ You just keep it to yourself. He must be more comfortable now with everything and went and got help and came out to everyone.”

Mark Stone said he had no clue what Lehner was dealing with. He saw the goalie as a hard worker who was beloved by his Senators teammates during his five years in Ottawa.

“He had that fire in him that you can’t really teach,” said Stone, who would joke around with Lehner on the ice post-trade.

“He is a brave person, so it doesn’t surprise me that when he goes through something like that he’s able to talk about it. For a guy like that to write that, you can always be proud of him.

“He still has friendships here and always will.”

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