Lehner and O'Reilly were quite touched by the NHL Awards

Lehner won two awards in Las Vegas, while O'Reilly took home one

Paul Hamilton
June 19, 2019 - 11:28 pm

Photo: Paul Hamilton (@pham1717)

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Las Vegas, NV (WGR 550) - Both Robin Lehner and Ryan O’Reilly had tears in their eyes as they spoke about their honors at the NHL Awards. Lehner took home the Jennings Trophy and the Masterton Trophy, while O’Reilly won his first Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward.

You could tell winning the Masterton meant so much to the former Sabres goalie. At the podium, he had maybe the most powerful line I’ve heard at that show, “I'm not ashamed to say I'm mentally ill, but that doesn't mean mentally weak."

Afterwards, he talked about what the trophy for perseverance means to him, “It represents so much personally to me and my wife and my family, but I’ve had such an incredible outpour of support and so many people that contacted me that are scared to take that first step, scared of doing the things that are necessary to turn their lives around and that’s incredibly rewarding.

“I had a dinner with all the doctors from the program the other day and they said a lot of people have reached out to them and started getting help because of me being outspoken and if that was just one person, it would be worth it, but we as players and GM’s in this league, there needs to be change because why it’s been so successful for me is because I was open with it, I think the program was able to work together with the team.

“The problem is the majority of people are not going to come out and be open about it through the team, so the team part is going to be not involved because as soon as that comes to light, it’s going to affect your financial future, it’s going to affect negotiations because it’s going to turn into a risk.”

Many Sabres have told me that they didn’t know Lehner’s battles with mental illness and addiction. The Islanders goalie said, “It’s been great from everyone there. I miss everyone, all the teammates in Buffalo, they’re incredible people, but that’s one of the big things when it comes to both mental illness and addiction, we’re very good at suffering in silence, we’re very good about going about our own business and try to hide it because the reality is that’s the stigma, we don’t want anyone to see, everyone has issues and don’t want to show it because it’s going to affect your professional life, it’s going to affect how people think of you because people do think of you differently.”

We all know that Ryan O’Reilly would talk after games in Buffalo about not being good enough and that he had to work to be better. He did just that in St. Louis and with the Stanley Cup, the Conn Smythe Trophy and the Selke, he’s at the top of his profession. O’Reilly got emotional when I asked him what kind of work he put in the get better, “I think a lot of maturing, a lot of realizing the tough things like being in uncomfortable situations, I mean being comfortable in the uncomfortable and growing that way.

“It’s amazing how a year can change so much, but you learn a lot. I think coming to St. Louis there is the pieces they had there and the veteran guys and they had great teams that came close and hadn’t won, I learned a lot, so it was a very well built team that I was very lucky to be a part of. Just the luck or the trade, I’m very fortunate to be a part of this whole thing.”

Now we turn our attention to the NHL Draft in Vancouver on Friday and Saturday. Join Brayton Wilson and Joe DiBiase as they anchor our coverage starting at 7:00. I’ll be live from the Draft Floor.

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