Whether you’re a hardcore fan of the National Hockey League or just a casual onlooker, I think it’s important to remember that at the end of the day, hockey is just a sport played by people. Just like you and I, each and every one of the players that we watch on the ice is going through the many highs and lows that life throws at them.
For that reason, it was very encouraging to see that Nate Thompson of the Los Angeles Kings recently got to celebrate quite the accomplishment Wednesday: the 34-year-old was able to say he’s officially two years sober.
The veteran forward opened up about things beyond the rink with Lisa Dillman of The Athletic recently. Saying that the last 730 days have been life-changing for him is a major understatement.
“Honestly, I wouldn’t be here right now if I wasn’t sober,” he said.
During his battle with addiction, he made sure to highlight the support he received from around the league. Teammates and other players that are going through what he is have been vital to him reaching this point.
“I’ve talked to him (former NHLer Brian McGrattan) a lot, and guys that have gone through it and are in it, it’s definitely a tight-knit community,” Thompson said. “Guys like Rich Clune, Sheldon Souray, Brantt Myhres, all those guys who have been through a lot in their career but are helping other guys.
“That’s the beauty of it. You go through it yourself, but at the same time, you can help someone along the way.”
Thompson made the decision to change the direction of his life while recovering from a torn Achilles tendon. He had sustained the injury while training in the offseason.
“Before that, I was going through a rough time,” Thompson said. “Obviously had some issues with substance and that’s when I was at rock bottom and decided I needed to make some changes.”
The support of his wife Sydney has also been crucial in this process.
“She’s been behind me, supported me the whole way, knows it’s the No. 1 priority and things don’t work if I don’t do this right,” he said.
Personally, it warms my heart to see players such as Thompson and New York Islanders goaltender Robin Lehner share their stories. Professional athletes are members of society that many look up to and admire. When they’re candid about their struggles off the ice, they have the opportunity to assist others that are going through similar experiences. You have to respect their choice to be vulnerable and use their position of influence for good.
Congratulations, Nate. You’ve earned it.
More NHL coverage on Yahoo Sports