Juan Muniz’s paintings has been seen by nearly each fan of the Golden Knights, even when they’re not acquainted with his title.
The one-panel cartoons that includes the Lil Knight character created by the Las Vegas resident gained a big following on social media throughout the workforce’s run to the Stanley Cup Closing in 2018.
He additionally was commissioned to design the logos used on the official Golden Misfits merchandise that was bought by the Knights.
However Muniz, who offers with despair and nervousness, is finest identified for the growling panda character that was the centerpiece on Knights goalie Robin Lehner’s masks throughout the postseason.
“Each of my worlds type of collided into themselves,” Muniz stated.
Lehner is greater than two years into his journey because the NHL’s most seen and outspoken advocate for psychological well being consciousness, and his influence has transcended hockey.
Muniz, 37, is one instance together with numerous others who made a private connection to Lehner’s story alongside the way in which.
It hasn’t been a clean trip, and Lehner’s openness has include “main repercussions” professionally, in response to his agent.
However Lehner’s willingness to point out his vulnerability continues to function inspiration for a lot of in their very own struggles with psychological sickness.
“On the finish of the day, I’m attempting to characterize that it’s attainable no matter you’re coping with mentally to nonetheless carry out,” Lehner stated. “I’m going to be much more open and sincere sooner or later and maintain speaking about my story so individuals can see the sunshine on the finish of the tunnel and maintain lifting individuals up.”
The origin of Lehner’s personal psychological well being points are troublesome to recap with out portray an incomplete image.
It begins with the advanced relationship between Lehner and his father, Michael, who put his son by a troublesome coaching routine after he switched from soccer to hockey at age 10.
Lehner left Sweden at age 18 after being drafted by Ottawa within the second spherical in 2009 and bounced between the Senators and their American Hockey League affiliate for 5 seasons.
He factors to the concussion he sustained with the Senators on Feb. 16, 2015, as the start of his struggles with alcohol.
Buffalo acquired Lehner on the 2015 NHL draft for a first-round choose, and he held himself collectively effectively sufficient to submit save percentages of .924 and .920 in his first two seasons with the struggling Sabres.
However Lehner lastly misplaced his grip close to the top of his third season in Buffalo, and the nadir got here when he suffered a panic assault between durations of a recreation in opposition to Detroit on March 29, 2018.
“I believe trying again, it positively was (an excessive amount of, too quickly),” Lehner stated. “There’s lots of issues I can pinpoint that I may have gotten assist earlier as a result of there was indicators there all alongside.”
Since then, Lehner has been as candid as attainable with reference to psychological well being.
He detailed his full prognosis — “bipolar and ADHD with PTSD and trauma” — and restoration in a private essay on The Athletic in 2018.
That transparency helped Lehner forge an unbreakable bond with New York Islanders followers after he signed a one-year contract with the workforce for the 2018-19 season.
“I believe what we needed to do as a household is be there to help him, not as a hockey participant but additionally as an individual,” stated Kim Moisa, a third-generation Islanders fan from Commack, New York.
THANK YOU @RobinLehner FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART. I’ll eternally keep sturdy since you confirmed me I may. God bless you and you’ll eternally be my favourite goaltender for the remainder of my life. pic.twitter.com/SS1XsUocVA
— Kim M (@IslesGirl3) December 28, 2019
Moisa, 21, was identified with partial advanced seizures in December 2018. Lehner’s arrival and subsequent success on Lengthy Island offered power for the nursing scholar as she overcame her personal despair.
At her darkest factors, she turned to his essay on The Athletic for braveness.
“It’s that individual in your life the place you have a look at them and also you’re like, ‘It’s corny, but when they will do it, I can do it,’ ” Moisa stated. “Robin helped me to face my very own demons. And it simply was like a domino impact inside our fan base.”
Lehner gained the Invoice Masterton Memorial Trophy after his season with the Islanders because the participant who finest exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to ice hockey.
His heartfelt acceptance speech on the 2019 NHL Awards Present in Las Vegas was a watershed second for Lehner’s picture throughout the league and paved the way in which for others to open up.
Vancouver Canucks ahead Tyler Motte shared his story this 12 months of residing with despair, and former Colorado Avalanche ahead Colin Wilson wrote about his struggles with OCD in The Gamers’ Tribune final month.
“The best way that he dealt with it actually resonated with lots of people,” stated Craig Oster, Lehner’s agent. “To start to have the ability to assist others, he’s been in a position to assist himself. That has been an unbelievable journey that he’s taken and he continues to go on.”
When Lehner signed a one-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2019 after he couldn’t come to phrases with the Islanders, he elevated his efforts to unfold consciousness of psychological well being points.
Lehner tells a narrative with every of his goalie masks and despatched a strong message with #SameHere painted on the perimeters of his Blackhawks gear.
#SameHere is an expression which implies: I’ve confronted challenges in life too. These challenges have affected my psychological well being. It’s an indication that we hope will unite the world to as soon as and for all, normalize how common this matter is. pic.twitter.com/gWsuDIwkMR
— Robin Lehner (@RobinLehner) August 13, 2019
The hashtag, based by longtime sports activities govt Eric Kussin in an effort to normalize the subject of psychological well being, additionally appeared on Lehner’s Knights goalie masks with Muniz’s panda design and his pads.
In response to the Nationwide Institute of Psychological Well being and knowledge from the Substance Abuse and Psychological Well being Providers Administration, one in 5 adults have been residing with a psychological sickness in 2019. Lower than half (44.6 p.c) of them obtained psychological well being providers.
“Probably the most superior tales which have come from that is the quantity of folks that we’ve been in a position to join with as a result of Robin’s put that on his helmet,” Kussin stated. “Individuals who attain out with messages like, ‘I noticed the hashtag and figured I’d throw a Hail Mary on the market and possibly any person will take heed to my prayers.’ ”
Seeking to the longer term
In lots of respects, Lehner’s game-saving glove cease in opposition to Vancouver’s Brock Boeser within the Western Convention semifinals was symbolic of his “mentally sick, not mentally weak” message.
Lehner thrived beneath the stress of a Recreation 7 and, as a bonus, disproved any notion that he lacks lateral quickness at 6 toes 4 inches and 240 kilos.
It additionally helped soothe a fan base nonetheless reeling from Marc-Andre Fleury’s demotion to backup goalie.
“The folks that did begin diving into Lehner’s background and the place he comes from or what he stands for, I may see that fan base simply rising an emotional connection to him,” Muniz stated. “And I believe the increasingly more that he’s open about it and speaks about it and he’s on this metropolis much more, we’re going to simply fall in love with him in such a large manner.”
Lehner, 29, is the Knights’ goalie of the longer term after he signed a five-year, $25 million contract extension in October.
With a brand new metropolis able to embrace him for the long run, these near Lehner are optimistic his influence will proceed to develop.
“You began to see his character come out slightly bit final 12 months. You began to see the Panda,” Kussin stated. “Now that he doesn’t have these issues on his plate anymore that weighed him down as a lot, you’re going to begin to see way more of his different aspect of his character come out.”