Lehner was a member of the Buffalo Sabres on March 29, when he suffered a panic attack
Newly-acquired New York Islanders goalie Robin Lehner has revealed that an in-game panic attack he suffered as a member of the Buffalo Sabres last season prompted him to get sober.
In a piece for The Athletic, the 27-year-old Swede said he suffered the panic attack during a start against the Detroit Red Wings last March, and actually went drinking after being allowed to leave during the second intermission.
‘When zero finally hit [at the end of the second period], I walked back and sat in the trainer’s room,’ Lehner wrote. ‘I could barely get my gear off. I broke down. I was having a major, full-blown panic attack. I thought I was suffering a heart attack. I had no idea what was happening. I could not go back on the ice.’
Officially, Lehner was out with an ‘undisclosed injury.’
After buying beer and drinking that night, Lehner told his wife that he needed help.
‘I stopped to grab beer,’ he said of his ride home on March 29. ‘I went home and drank … and drank. I finally woke up my wife in the middle of the night and said the five words I never had the courage to say.
‘I have to go away.’
After yielding three goals on 20 shots to the Red Wings, Lehner suffered a panic attack prior to the third period and was allowed to go home. That night he drank heavily, he says
In addition to recognizing his manic phases, as well as his problems with drugs and alcohol, Lehner was subsequently diagnosed with ‘bipolar [disorder] and ADHD and PTSD and trauma.’
After three weeks of detox, Lehner explained, he was able to address his own personal issues, which he says were ‘complicated’ by his ‘own childhood experiences of abuse, addiction and mental illness.’
Last season, before he was traded to San Antonio, Toronto Raptors swingman DeMar DeRozan confessed to battling depression, which he said is ‘nothing to be ashamed of’
Lehner even realized that his mental state had a direct connection to his level of play.
‘With those manic swings, I could see the pattern.’ Lehner said. ‘When I was hypomanic and in a good mood, I was a solid goalie. The depressive state, not so much.’
Lehner credited Sabres general manager Jason Botterill, who released him in June, but has remained ‘incredibly supportive’ to the veteran goalie.
Lehner now enters his ninth NHL season with his third team.
‘My journey is still new,’ he wrote. ‘Every day is a battle and each day a new chance to grow as a man. It is time to take the ‘crazy person’ stamp from bipolar disorder. I am working hard to become the latest to battle this unfair stigma. Our battle together is just beginning.
‘And now that I have begun my battle with what’s behind me, it’s time to battle what’s in front of me.’
Lehner’s revelation comes after Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love revealed he, too, suffered a panic attack during a game. Also last season, Toronto Raptors star DeMar DeRozan said he battled depression before being dealt to the San Antonio Spurs over the summer.
Like Lehner, Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love suffered a panic attack during a game