Rozner: Why Robin Lehner is frustrated with the NHL's virus restrictions

  • Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner wondered aloud last week when the NHL will ease virus protocols.

    Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner wondered aloud last week when the NHL will ease virus protocols. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 4/27/2021 12:31 PM

Robin Lehner is frustrated.

And one certainty we learned last season when Lehner played for the Blackhawks is he will tell you what he's thinking. When distraught, he's not going to hold back.

 

Not shocking, therefore, that he let loose a few days ago, hammering the NHL for what he perceived as a moving of the goal posts.

Lehner was under the impression that some of the pandemic restrictions in place for NHL players would have been eased by now, and that's not happening.

"They told me yesterday they're surveying all the teams to see who has taken the vaccine, and they're not going to change the rules for players until all players have the vaccine, so it's not a competitive edge," Lehner said during his Zoom availability. "That made me go crazy, to be honest. People are struggling with this stuff a lot in society, and we are humans (like) everyone else."

Lehner went public two years ago, detailing his struggles with bipolar disorder, ADHD, post-traumatic stress and addiction. Isolation has been hard on everyone, but especially those battling mental illness.

"We had a meeting when the season started," Lehner said. "They pretty much told us you can't go outside of your house, can't go to the grocery store, can't do nothing on the road.

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"You can take a meal (from) the meal room, but go sit in your room. Don't be with your teammates. Don't do this, don't do that. No one thinks about the mental impact.

"There are people struggling. This is a society problem. When government, corporations, NHL, are making decisions in terms of these irrelevant things like 'competitive edge' over the human being, it's not OK, man.

"We are vaccinated and we are still trapped in a prison."

Before you make the obligatory leap and label the man, Lehner took a knee during the national anthem last summer to protest racism and injustice. So much for the political argument.

Truth is, Lehner is hardly alone in feeling like the rules are constantly under revision, and it's not a case of him mistrusting the science.

More along the lines of constantly changing information, which is understandable given the changing circumstances, but Lehner would handle it better if given all the information, not just what officials decide is worth revealing at a given moment.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Now, if you say that out loud, you get shouted down for wanting to harm others or not believing the science, and of course this is exactly what happened to Lehner, courtesy of the Twitter omniscient.

"At some point, we've got to start looking at the mental health of people around us, not just the NHL, but everyone in society, and see how we can start getting back to normalcy," Lehner said. "The problem is going to be huge.

"And now that we've taken the vaccine to have the excuse of saying, 'Nah, we're not changing because of competitive advantage,' it's outrageous."

Lehner said he was told the NHL would ease protocols once vaccinations reached a large percentage of the league.

"That was a lie," Lehner said. "A blatant lie."

The NHL's Bill Daly responded by telling ESPN that no promises were made to the players.

"It's been a matter that's been discussed between us and the NHLPA," Daly said, "but no decision to modify has ever been made nor communicated to anyone."

A few hours after his media availability, Lehner took to Twitter. He didn't back off, but he did clarify.

"I'm frustrated like a lot of people in the world right now, (but) everything didn't come out of today's (news conference) in the right way," he tweeted. "Main point is that we need to start (making) mental health important.

"To put competitive edge before well-being of people's lives is wrong. People are struggling with many different things mentally and we need to consider that. Then being lied to makes it worse.

"I love hockey and the league has done a lot of good things. This (news conference) missed the mark. My bad to say it's like prison and I apologize, but ... we will see exactly how this affects everything with time. I don't mean to offend anyone.

"I hope we can all work together to help people that suffer."

Lehner should have the freedom to vent, though doing so is dangerous to your social media health. And, no, that doesn't make him anti-science or a bad citizen.

He's not against vaccinations. He just wants to know when he can start moving forward within the NHL confines.

Lehner obviously has some wariness of those who have the power to decide whether Lehner can see his family, leave his home or eat dinner with teammates in a hotel.

Once considered a civic duty, it's not crazy to question authority. Some would say it's crazy not to.

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