We rarely see active professional athletes speak out about any type of controversial subject. In the NHL, few have ever been as vocal as goaltender, and current Vegas Golden Knight, Robin Lehner.
Lehner has been in the spotlight providing arguments and opinions in defense of Jack Eichel, former captain of the Buffalo Sabres. For those who may not have been following the situation, Eichel has been denied the opportunity to receive surgery to fix a herniated disk in his spine. Since being denied the surgery, he has been stripped of his captaincy for failing his physical to start the season.
While the operation Eichel wants has never been performed on an NHL player, Lehner has strong thoughts that have progressed into calling out others in the league who have performed or approved of some questionable medical practices.
Lehner has been even calling for the NHLPA and other athletes to join him in publicly questioning the league and team organizations. Unfortunately, he has seen limited support from active athletes.
While the CBA does give the power to approve medical procedures to the teams each athlete plays for, at some point, it is simply ridiculous to continue to deny treatment that is a possible solution.
On October 2nd, Lehner moved on to exposing the questionable practices out of the Philadelphia Flyers organization, naming head coach Alain Vigneault. While he was clear that the practices are not present in the Golden Knights organization, he shared that players have been given benzodiazepines and Ambien without prescription from doctors.
These practices would never be accepted in other occupations and whistleblowers would be praised as brave and told they are doing the right thing. Instead, Robin Lehner is facing backlash and having people use his mental health as a reason that he should not be trusted on this subject. If anything, his mental health has been only compromised further by being put in situations where team staff has provided treatments that had not come from licensed doctors.
When you have a player like Jack Eichel out for six months, just to return to a new season to be placed on IR, should you not want him to have the opportunity to return to play soon? Instead of keeping him around but not being able to utilize him on the ice, which seems like an already pointless move, he should be allowed the opportunity to heal and come back. If Eichel wants the surgery, tell him the risks, but then let him make the decision as it would affect his career.
Then you look at a guy like Golden Knights forward Nolan Patrick and have to wonder if his situation in the Flyers organization may have been impacted in a similar way as well. While he has spent just the preseason in Vegas so far, there is no denying that he seems like a different player since pulling on the VGK jersey. He looks much more like the player fans wanted and expected to get in Philly.
Robin Lehner has continuously been one of the most open professional athletes in any sport and has voiced thoughts on so many things while staying an active and relevant presence. The NHL has offered to directly interview him following his posts calling out medical malpractice, however, we have all seen how slow and ineffective those league investigations can be. We can only hope that Lehner’s words are not taken for granted and perhaps they will lead to change that can only benefit the players we love to watch.
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