I have been thinking a lot about the importance of teammates lately. When my friend Steve Montador died last February, I didn’t really take the proper time to grieve. We were in the middle of the season. My teammates on the Blackhawks counted on me to be a certain type of guy when I walked into their locker room — the guy who would put on a new playlist every day and joke around and make people happy.
Inside, I was an absolute wreck. I did the best I could to just get through the season so that I could walk away from the game on my own terms.
In April, I released a video on The Players’ Tribune about Monty and his struggles to cope with concussions, depression and life after hockey. It was raw and emotional. I was dealing with a concussion myself. I tried to make as much sense as I could.
I just didn’t want to see anyone else go through what my friend had gone through.
After we won the Stanley Cup and I retired last summer, I knew that I wanted to create a foundation that would honor Monty’s legacy and help guys who were struggling to find a new identity after hockey.
But that fall, when the new season started, I went through the same dark cycle that I witnessed firsthand with Monty. I went in with my eyes completely open, but I just couldn’t stop it. I started isolating myself. I felt like I didn’t have a purpose. I fell into a deep and dark depression. Most days, I got out of bed at 1 p.m.
One day, my family got invited to a birthday party for the young son of my former teammate Andrew Desjardins. My wife, Ela, practically had to drag me out of the house. I didn’t want the guys to see me in the state I was in. I remember walking up the stairs to the place with Ela and my son, and I was completely overwhelmed with anxiety and stress. I wanted to turn back and go to the car — because I knew I was going to go in there and lie to them. I knew I was going to say that everything was fine.
The crazy thing is, when I walked into the party, all of that anxiety went away. I saw Brent Seabrook. I saw Johnny Toews. All the guys I cared so much about. And they sincerely cared about how I was doing. Seeing them made me feel O.K. again, even if it only lasted a few days — or to be completely honest, a few hours — until I fell back into the darkness again.
That birthday party is the perfect example of why I started Chapter 5. It’s the reason why Monty’s legacy will live on.
So this week, I sat down in front of the camera again to be as honest as I can about my own struggles, and to talk about my sincere belief that we can help each other through the darkness.