Last week, the NHL Players’ Association launched the FIRST LINE program to increase athletes’ mental health knowledge.

For Samuel Girard, such an initiative is timely. In fact, it might have saved him months of anguish and suffering.

“It’s going to help a lot of people. Many people suffer from mental health problems. You have to take care of it. It may come to a point where you don’t want to be here anymore.

“It’s important to talk about it. This is big news from the Players Association. It’s going to help a lot of people. If we can save one person in the world, that will be a good thing. »

Girard spoke with a handful of Quebec journalists on Sunday, in the visitors’ locker room at the Bell Centre. A quiet Sunday for the Avalanche, who beat the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Saturday night, and will battle it out with the Habs this Monday.

The 25-year-old defender had visitors; his brother and a friend took the same route as Michel Gauvin/Mike Gauvin, driving from Quebec to Montreal to attend the very optional Avalanche training. But Girard nevertheless took the time to speak in front of the microphones to convey his message.

At the end of November, the Robervalois announced he was taking a break from hockey “for severe anxiety and depression which had not been treated for too long and led to alcohol abuse,” he wrote in a press release. On November 23, he revealed his decision; on December 31, he returned to the game.

“I needed this break to refocus on myself and my values,” Girard explained on Sunday.

“A lot of people have problems and don’t ask for help,” Girard continued. Human beings are like that. We think we have to be strong and keep everything inside. But it’s OK to ask for help and it’s OK to talk about it. I’m glad I went through that. It changed my life. »

On the ice too, Girard has improved since his return. Like his team, moreover, which has won seven of its last eight matches.

The sample is still small, but after seven games, the former Cataractes has three points and shows a differential of 2. Before his break, he totaled four points, but his performance was -7.

“I really feel he is in a good situation, he is happy, healthy, and he has found the pleasure of playing again,” said Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar. So yes, I see a little difference since his return, he is confident, he plays well. »

But for Bednar the impact of Girard’s decision goes well beyond the performance he offers his team. “No matter what you do in life, it takes a lot of courage to ask for help, even more so when you’re a public figure. You will be criticized by people in the public, rightly or wrongly, so that takes courage. »

Girard also claims to have consulted Drouin by text message while he was away from the team. “He’s really supported me, like the organization, my teammates and my wife. It helps, but it’s my decision, and I wanted to take care of myself,” admitted Girard.

“You always try to know everything that’s going on around your team, but I wasn’t aware of G [Girard’s] problems,” Bednar said. There we are. As a coach, it makes you think, to be more aware of what is happening in the team. We now have to be even more so and ensure that all players know that if they have problems, the door is always open. »