Avalanche defenseman Samuel Girard to step away from NHL indefinitely, seek depression treatment

Avalanche defenseman Samuel Girard announced his intention to step away from the game and seek treatment for severe anxiety and depression, CAA Hockey, the agency that represents him, announced Friday. There’s no timetable for his return.

“I have made a proactive decision to take care of my mental health, and will be entering treatment for severe anxiety and depression that has gone untreated for too long and led to alcohol abuse,” Girard said in a statement. “Taking care of your mental health is of the utmost importance, and I encourage everyone to speak up and seek help should you feel like you need it. I want to express my gratitude to my wife, family, friends, the club, my teammates, and the fans for their patience, understanding, and continued support.”

Girard, 25, will enter NHLPA’s Player Assistance Program, a resource offered to players as they look to recover from the hidden scars of playing professional hockey.

As part of the program, Girard will still receive payment from Colorado’s organization. He will be return to the club only once he is cleared by the program’s administration.

MORE: Why Milan Lucic is taking ‘indefinite leave of absence’ from team

Girard has tallied four points (one goal, three assists) in 15 games this year. He was a vital cog in the Avalanche’s Stanley Cup-winning defense in 2022, racking up 21:30 worth of ice time per game in 67 games.

Samuel Girard return timeline

It’s unclear quite when Girard could return to the ice. Treatment for mental health problems is different for everyone; for some, it could take weeks. For others, it’s a months-long process. He hasn’t taken part in a game since Nov. 18.

His father, Tony, posted the following statement shortly after CAA revealed Girard is stepping away from the game for treatment:

It’s not unprecedented for an NHL player to step away for the betterment of their mental health. Slater Koekkoek, Jonathan Drouin and, most recently, Carey Price, all missed time after announcing their ordeals with anxiety and depression at different points in their career.

What is the NHL’s Player Assistance Program?

Formed with both NHL and NHLPA approval in 1996, the NHL’s Player Assistance Program helps players — both active and retired — adjust to the doldrums that can come with life as a high-level athlete. The program allows active players to continue to receive a paycheck while undergoing treatment for a variety of issues, including mental health struggles and substance abuse.

There’s no set timetable for players to take part in the clinic. However, they have to be cleared by the program’s directors to be able to take part in normal NHL activities.

Carey Price, Spencer Knight and Milan Lucic are among those to have entered the program in recent seasons.

Source : ESPN.com

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