Former Red Wings forward Riley Sheahan is an unrestricted free agent at present, but he’s spent part of his summer producing a podcast focused on mental health, partnering with TorchPro‘s stable of athletes.
The off-season is a perfect time for players to rest, recover and train. For center Riley Sheahan, it was also an opportunity to get out of his comfort zone and try something different: a podcast on mental health.
Sheahan, a free agent who spent last season with the Buffalo Sabres, holds the cause near to his heart. Back in 2012 when he was still a prospect for the Detroit Red Wings, Sheahan was arrested for drunk driving, an offense made all the more notable by the fact he was wearing a Halloween costume at the time. For some outsiders it was humorous, but it was very serious for the youngster, who thought he might have frittered away an NHL career before it even started.
In the aftermath of the incident, a psychologist diagnosed Sheahan with depression and the Red Wings made sure he got the space and time needed to reset.
“It was huge, it was such a relief,” Sheahan said. “That really allowed me to focus on hockey and play a little more free. I solidified my role on the Red Wings and from there, built some momentum. When you have people in your corner you can be at ease. It definitely opens up your thinking patterns and allows you to be stress-free.”
But battling depression and anxiety has been a constant for Sheahan, which is why he wanted to start his ‘Speak Your Mind’ podcast on TorchPro, the website co-founded by Dallas veteran Joe Pavelski.
“I wanted to work my mind in a different way and do something uncomfortable,” Sheahan said. “I had gotten into a routine of being a hockey player where I’d wake up every morning, train, skate and come home and I thought I had a lot of time on my hands. And adding my voice to the group of athletes speaking out about this is fun for me.”
Q. The alcohol issues in Detroit that led to your arrest, did that incident make you realize you needed some help.
SHEAHAN: “Yeah, I definitely think that was a little bit of a wakeup call. I don’t think that issue was a one-off thing for me. It was just a matter of time that I got caught doing something really stupid. Even then, it still is a process to figure it out. I was fortunate enough as I grew older I started to really understand and I started to build a little bit of a fear and anxiety towards drinking, which was good for me to start to figure out how to cope with those stresses. That was an eye-opening experience that allowed me to start learning more about myself and try to figure some things out.”
Q. That happened during your rookie year. A lot of young players may not think to go get help. How did the organization assist you during that period?
SHEAHAN: “They were supportive in me getting help and whatever I needed to do to figure it out. That was meaningful to me and it was a relief to me. Being at that age, if you need help and you need to go get it, obviously you’ve got to do it and I don’t think anyone will judge you for it. Just at that age being cognizant of some of the feelings, if you’re going to go out and have a good time, that’s awesome. I think there’s a lot of camaraderie, things you can build [going out]. But I think if you’re drinking to the point where you’re starting to have these crazy thoughts and you’re blacking out, maybe you’ve got to learn from it and don’t be shy to start to dig and do some self-thinking and maybe some of those issues can be brought to the surface and you can learn from them.”
Leahy and Sheahan also continue; it’s good to hear that the Red Wings were supportive of Sheahan during his time of need. Whoever signs the 29-year-old center will gain a solid citizen on and off the ice, and I wish him well going forward.