Toronto Maple Leafs: The Importance of Recognizing Pro Athletes as People

Toronto Maple Leafs - Auston Matthews #34 and Jack Campbell #36 (Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images)
Toronto Maple Leafs - Auston Matthews #34 and Jack Campbell #36 (Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs will not be playing any time soon.

Even though the NHL has taken a leave of absence, this still leaves players to dwell on their last games and not be able to prove themselves. This can cause a major impact on their mental health.

I recently saw a tweet which said we were lucky the Toronto Maple Leafs last game was a win, otherwise we would be stewing on that for week.

This reminded me of Mitch Marner’s advice to his teammates to stay off social media after a bad loss in Anaheim, which he was critiqued for. Although we often praise Toronto Maple Leafs players like Marner and Campbell for their go-lucky attitude, it is important to remember these are young men who have actual feelings.

Toronto Maple Leafs Jack Campbell

I was editing Jack Campbell’s Wikipedia page, as one does when there are no sports on TV, and stumbled across an interview from his time with the Los Angeles Kings.

In this interview, Campbell describes feeling unmotivated to play hockey and feeling as if the sport was no longer fun due to his inability to crack the NHL lineup. What really caught me was when he said he would “view myself in the mirror as like if I’m a good or bad person based on if I won or lost.”

Considering Campbell was a first round draft pick, I was always under the impression they were heavily trained for how to deal with the pressure of it all.

In fact, often times the heaviest critique is that these young men are too cocky. However, I guess most people assume first round picks will make the lineup within a few years.

Campbell was an anomaly. Although he is playing phenomenally for the Toronto Maple Leafs now, his time is Dallas was met with much hardships. He even spent some time in the ECHL, which is what he said hit him the hardest.

This is why I hate it when fans are so quick to call young players busts. Just two years ago, many people had written off former third overall Dylan Strome, who is now succeeding in Chicago away from the desert.

The topic of mental health is something my fellow editor Perri Gallacher has written about during #BellLetsTalk.

"[R]oughly four players in the roster would statistically be affected by mental illness, proving that no matter how much money or fame or success someone has, it does not substitute for endless happiness and behind the glint of the skates there could be deeper down mental things that no one knows about."

Some sports are better around the topic of mental health than others. In 2019, the NBA announced that every team must have at least one mental health professional on staff at all times.

The NFL also announced a similar move which included research into pain management and alternative therapies. Luckily it seems Campbell found a friend in Jonathan Quick, but I nay think of what could’ve happened in Strome and Campbell were left in their original organizations.

Many players turn to substance abuse, such as Robin Lehner, and must put their career on hold because of it. Yes, we all wish they can have a Cinderella story like Bobby Ryan but it hasn’t even been a decade since three enforces died in one summer.

It would appear that the life of a pro athlete comes with a lot of baggage that fans often don’t recognize, or consider.  We are quick to treat players as pieces on a chess board, but rarely stop to consider the pressure they must constantly be under.

Next. The Leafs Are Contenders. dark

Recent world events remind us that athletes are human, and subject to the same mental health issues as the rest of us.

Anyways, take care of yourself out there and don’t hog the toilet paper.