I keep asking myself something, ever since the NHL lost both Derek Boogaard and Rick Rypien over the summer.
NHL teams have people to look after a player's every need: coaches, doctors, equipment managers, skate sharpeners, what-have-you. They take care of preparing the players physically. But what about their psychological problems?
Think about it. Boogaard had substance abuse issues and Rypien had mental health problems, both of which presumably lead to their untimely deaths.
Professional athletes are under a tremendous amount of stress; no amount of fan adoration or scoring bonuses can change that. Some deal with it better than others. They could probably all use a little help from time to time.
I've asked around (thank you, sources) and have learned that most of a hockey team's medical staff isn't permanent. Specialists are only brought in if they're needed. This includes psychologists. Most people are too proud or afraid to admit when they think they might need psychological help. No one wants to admit they're crazy, or that they aren't able to help themselves any more. Somehow I think that this is even truer for professional athletes.
I obviously don't know any specifics - I don't know what Boogaard or Rypien was going through, or what it's like for the hundreds of other guys in the NHL. It's not fair that they have a job where they're provided with the best doctors, coaches, and trainers, but not the best psychological help. And I can't imagine how difficult it must be to know that so many people love buying tickets to see you do what you do best, and that that makes them happy, but that you're struggling with something that you can't talk about.
These guys weren't even 30 yet. That should be enough proof that the NHL needs to pay better attention to the physical and mental health of its players. The league is nothing without its players, and they deserve to be taken care of.