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Mental Health is Crucial – In Hockey, and in Life

Sometimes, the joy of hockey is overshadowed by the anguish that takes place in the real world. Sometimes, the competitive bubble of sport is blown apart by the unpredictable. That's what the Bratislava Capitals are faced with now after a double tragedy.
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Sometimes, the joy of hockey is overshadowed by the anguish that can take place in the real world. Sometimes, the competitive bubble of sport is blown apart by the unpredictable and the indefensible. 

And sadly, we saw an example this week of the fragility of life, when the bet-at-home ICE Hockey League suffered a double-blow in ways they could never have imagined.

The first blow came on Nov. 3, when Slovakian forward Boris Sadecky collapsed on the ice during an Austrian League game and subsequently passed away. Sadecky is believed to have died of a heart attack, but nothing has been confirmed, and the team he played for – the Bratislava Capitals – is keeping quiet by and large. 

All we know is a 24-year-old talented athlete was suddenly taken from us, and the game of hockey and everyone Sadecky encountered is now poorer for not having him around any longer.

Unfortunately, Sadecky’s untimely passing was followed only two days later by Capitals GM Dusan Pasek, Jr.’s suicide. Pasek Jr. was only 36 years old when he died at his own hand, just like his father, Dusan Sr., did when he was one year older. The pain the families and friends of both hockey men must be unimaginable. The loss of two vibrant human beings in the same socio-professional circles in the span of 48 hours is enormous.

Just imagining the emotions of Bratislava’s players, fans, the team’s organization and the league is difficult. And news that the Capitals have asked the league to suspend their participation in the remainder of the current season has demonstrated how much upset there is around the team and the game.

We’re far, far away from a European league and the emotion the Capitals organization has to be feeling, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be supportive of them in this time of need. The hockey world feels small sometimes, but in this case, it can be extremely big if we want it to. And we should want it to.

We should want to continue to advocate for better mental health programs, and we should want to talk to each other and be there for each other. We should make as much help available to Bratislava as we can. And if the players there still feel like they can’t take the ice and play real games again, we have to allow them the space and time to get better.

If not – if we allow this issue to ebb away, with no follow-up and no determination to truly effect change – we’re virtually guaranteeing there’ll be more victims in the future. We have a chance to be the generation(s) that finally made mental health a high priority, and that takes care of those in severe mental pain. We need to make the most of our time on this planet and be as helpful as possible to those in need.

If you feel you want to hurt yourself, please know people are waiting to hear from you to help you address your issues. In Canada, the Canada Suicide Prevention Service is a 24/7 phone line – the toll-free number is 833-456-4566 – and in the United States, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for no charge at 1-800-273-8255. Each of those organizations exist to help troubled people, and if you’re feeling desperate and/or abandoned, you can give one of them a free call and understand you’re not alone.

The judgment of the Austrian League almost certainly will come to the support of the families of Sadecky and Pasek, Jr. and it will suspend the Capitals’ operations for the foreseeable future. And that’s fine. Hockey isn’t important for that team and that town at the moment.

What’s important is honoring those two souls the best way we can: by being more empathetic in instances like this; and by committing more money and focus to the epidemic of mental health woes we’re enduring.

We all are in this together, and when we lose someone, we must work to ensure something good comes of their passing. We can do that with Bratislava, and we can do that here in North America. We just need to want it badly enough. But I believe we’re there.

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