The New York Islanders saw a familiar face last night in Robin Lehner, and for some fans, it was a meeting that they would never forget.
Brendan Burke said it best in the open to the New York Islanders vs Chicago Blackhawks matchup last night. Last season, was the first year of Robin Lehner’s new life, and for that, the Islanders and their fans will always have a special place in his heart.
When Lehner came to the Island last year, he was very open about his struggles with addiction and mental health. He wrote a beautiful article in The Athletic, documenting his flaws. He became relatable to so many.
He was humanized, something that athletes most often aren’t. We can sometimes forget the guys wearing the helmets are just like us with their own struggles and own fights going on inside them. Robin became a spokesperson for mental health and when he spoke, people listened.
On the ice, Lehner had a career year in his one-year stop with the Isles. He posted a .930 save percentage and a 2.13 goals against average. His play yielded him Vezina votes, even though he fell just short in that category it was still amazing to see him get recognized.
His best moment wasn’t anywhere on the ice last year, even though there were many highlight-reel saves in his stellar season. It was his acceptance speech at the NHL Awards for the Masterton Trophy that brought tears to our eyes.
“I’m not ashamed to say I’m mentally ill but that doesn’t mean mentally weak.” Wow. Simply put, Robin Lehner delivered one of the more memorable speeches at the NHL Awards in recent memory.
As good as he was on the ice, he won’t be remembered here for what he did on the ice but what he did off of it. Leading up to the game, Lehner spoke fondly of his time with the Islanders and what the fans meant to him.
The love for Robin Lehner didn’t stop once he left. I know for me personally, and a lot of Islander fans, we hope Lehner is great every night so long as he isn’t playing the Islanders. Unfortunately for the Isles, Lehner was his old self last night.
He stopped 38 of 40 shots for a .950 save percentage. Would you expect anything different from him?
After the game, he showed why he is the best and why so many still root for him. He met up with some Islander fans and shared an intimate moment with one fan in particular, Kim.
After playing, he took the time to meet fans from the team that he just played against. Yes, with context there’s more to the story, but I can’t tell you too many other players who would do that and that’s why Robin’s a special person.
We spoke to Kim about meeting her hero. Kim was diagnosed with Partial Complex Seizures last December, and her entire world was flipped on its head in terms of the mental stigma, medications and their side effects.
Kim reread Lehner’s Athletic story after her diagnosis and couldn’t help but cry. “I felt what he felt,” she said. Lehner specifically requested to meet up with her after the game, and as you can see from the video he gave her an emotional embrace.
"“He let me cry in his arms and patted my back. He told me to stay strong and always keep fighting. It’s a moment I will cherish for the rest of my life.”"
What more can you say about the guy? I myself struggle with anxiety, and at times it can get overwhelming for me but knowing that someone you watch on TV every night is going through the same things you are, makes all the difference in the world.
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Robin is a hero to Kim, to me, and to many more. He’s a human, who also happens to play hockey for a living. Thank you, Robin you will always be an Islander to us.