Robin Lehner on NHL cancel culture: 'I believe everybody needs a second chance'

Ailish Forfar
·NHL Editor
Robin Lehner is advocating for mental health education for NHL coaches. (Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NHLI via Getty Images)
Robin Lehner is advocating for mental health education for NHL coaches. (Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NHLI via Getty Images)

In a lengthy interview with The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus, Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Robin Lehner shared his thoughts on the “cancel culture” surrounding the NHL over the past few weeks.

Lehner, who has been candid about his personal fight with addiction, believes that society’s zero-tolerance attitude towards the recent allegations concerning NHL coaches isn’t fair because “we’re judging people’s actions many, many years ago through today’s society’s glasses, which is highly immoral.”

Instead, Lehner calls for a discussion that explores mental health education and rehabilitation, and encourages giving people another opportunity.

“I’ve been a bad person,” Lehner said. “I got a second chance. I believe everybody needs a second chance.”

While reflecting on the stories surrounding Bill Peters, Marc Crawford, and Mike Babcock, Lehner attributes the issue to a lack of information and education coaches receive on the impact of their methods on players, rather than harmful intentions.

“I can say pretty open and honestly that 95 percent of these coaches, they’re not evil people. Maybe 5 percent are an evil person. These people are not evil people. They’re not bad people.”

Lehner believes that the coaching styles under fire were adopted from the military, whose approach was perceived as the most effective to inspire performance.

“I think in general, hockey and sports systems in general stems from the military quite a bit, on how to get ready your troops to go into battle and what they thought at the time was the best way to prepare someone to become stronger or be able to take pressure. That was the education level back then. That’s what they thought worked. Does that make them a bad person?”

Lehner continues that if coaches were more aware of how their motivation methods impacted the mental health of players, their actions would have been different.

“Because at the end of the day, it comes back to what I’m saying about mental health education. These coaches, or people in general, will know what type of effects that type of system has on a mental health level. And that it probably has a long line of people that couldn’t handle it, that didn’t make it, that couldn’t stay in the league. But the line of consequences are being highly insecure leads to anxiety and depression and drug abuse and suicide and all these things. If that would be pinpointed and taught back in the day, do you think that these coaches would have continued? They wouldn’t.”

Lehner also isn’t in agreement with coaches being dismissed without the opportunity to defend themselves.

“What I’m saying is it’s a double standard. And why do these people deserve to get their lives canceled because of public pressure without a fair hearing, without being able to tell their side of the story, you understand what I mean? I’m not condoning the behavior. I’m saying they weren’t educated at the time, and at the time it was the cultural norm on how to do things.”

As far as solutions go, Lehner insists the NHL implement training programs for coaches.

“How about instead of firing all the people, the NHL and everyone puts in training programs about mental health to show all the coaches what type of consequences that type of behavior can have on mental health. I guarantee you it will stop.”

He also urges the media to be more mindful of telling both sides of the story.

“We’re throwing out a bunch of one-sided stuff online and let the public read it and say how disgusting these people are until the higher echelon of every corporation gets pressured enough that they’re too much of a liability and they lose their job. That’s exactly what’s happening. Where’s all the articles about the hundreds of people that love these guys? I haven’t seen one. I saw one in Ottawa, no one retweeted that. No one in Chicago retweeted the Ottawa article with six players saying good things about Crawford. Where’s that retweet? The narrative is how it is.”

Since Lazerus’ article was published, Lehner’s stance and comments have been met with mixed reactions online, which he addressed in a series of tweets:

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