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On Jakub Vrana, respecting humans, and learning from Stephen Johns
Treat people like people
I originally wasn’t going to write about Jakub Vrana.
What’s happening in his life, especially after he entered the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program, is his business.
And that doesn’t change, no one should press or question Vrana about what’s happening. But I needed to write something, even if it’s short, after a text I got from Stephen Johns on Wednesday afternoon.
“Want to watch Mental Miles tonight?”
The Stephen Johns story is the most important story I’ve covered in my career. His willingness to open up to me at my prior publication, to share part of what he’s gone through, I don’t know if I’ll ever write a more important story.
But that printed story was only part of John’s story. The true story, the full story, was always his to share, and I’m thankful he’s found the ideal medium with the Mental Miles documentary about his journey across the country, which will be available to the public sooner than later.
Johns’ willingness to share his story, especially in this sport where machismo is celebrated, is vital to changing a culture that people — whether they play hockey or not — are people too. It’s ok to struggle, it’s ok to deal with shit.
Personally, and I’ve never actually told Johns this, his journey helped me. There have been times in the past two years when I’ve dealt with depression, I struggled — and still struggle — to find some answers to certain things in life.
Sometimes when life gets a bit overloaded, and it happens, I’ll take the dogs for a walk. The concept of #MentalMiles and taking the time for yourself and taking a mental health walk can do wonders.
Even in a job that is semi-public facing, as a reporter, I get the benefit of anonymity, no one is pressing or trying to guess my back story or why I had a rough day at work.
That’s something that professional athletes don’t get the benefit of. Yes, they are well compensated and play a game for a living, but they are defined by a job and sports fandom can dehumanize the humans on the playing field.
When Vrana missed Monday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings for personal reasons, the reactions were mixed, and some of the reactions on social media were inhuman in wondering if it was a legit absence.
On Wednesday, when there was some clarity from the NHL and NHLPA — which we were only given because of Vrana’s status as a public figure — there was more public support for Vrana, but it’s a sad reality that it took a brave decision by Vrana to enter the program and publicly admit he needed help.
The point here, if there is one, is to treat people like people.