Habs RW Kassian’s Recovery Not A Comedy Skit


There’s 35.16 million people in Canada, 11% of those people have a problem with alcohol or drug abuse. That’s roughly 3 million, 867 thousand, 600 people, maybe even more.

That’s tough for anyone to get their head around. Why would they choose such a chaotic lifestyle? Why would they want to hurt their bodies like that? What influenced them to use alcohol or drugs? While these questions are good to ask, sometimes it’s not about the “why.” Sometimes, it’s just simple understanding of how addiction really works.

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Last week, Zack Kassian admitted to stage 2 of NHL/NHL Players’ Association rehab program while being suspended without pay. Stage 2 of the rehab program is mandatory, which means if he had decided to stick up his middle finger and refused to go, he would currently be referred to as “that guy who used to play for the Montreal Canadiens.”

This all happened the day after Kassian was in a pick-up truck that crashed into a tree in the early hours in the morning. Kassian wasn’t driving. In fact, it was a 20-year-old woman who was driving while Kassian was sitting in the passenger seat. The result of the crash left Kassian with a broken nose and left foot.

Naturally, Marc Bergevin, like any other general manager, wasn’t pleased. He went on to say last Monday morning, “I don’t have all the information, but it’s disappointing to say the least. I addressed the whole team this morning. We are professional and we have to behave like professionals. You have to be respectful and you’re lucky to be a hockey player. I’m a firm believer in character and that’s really a lack of character and judgement on his part.”

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  • This is also not the 1st time that Kassian has gone to a rehab/behavioral program. He was already in Stage 1 of the program, which means he most likely volunteered for treatment and entered the program anonymously.

    Stage 1 also rarely has public acknowledgement, which is why for some of us it came as such a shock to hear that the new guy was already on the wrong path in Montreal. However, the Habs were already aware of Kassian’s past when they traded him in the summer for Brandon Prust.

    With that said, people were already getting on their social media platforms to publish their latest joke about Kassian, the most popular one being “looks like the Canucks knew what they were doing dealing Kassian this summer, eh?” This is due to a lack of education on addiction or perhaps maybe people are just automatically ignorant towards any athlete with addiction because “they made their own mess.”

    Either way, there’s something a lot of Habs, Sabres, and Canucks fans could learn from this situation: have empathy.

    Sep 26, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Montreal Canadiens forward Zack Kassian (8) during the pre game warm up against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

    Sympathy is completely different from empathy. Sympathy is literally ‘feeling with’ – compassion for or commiseration with another person. In a nutshell, you’re feeling sorry for someone and staying in the “poor him, poor him” state of mind.

    Empathy, however, is literally ‘feeling into’ – the ability to project one’s personality into another person and more fully understand that person. Basically, you’re standing in Kassian’s shoes while looking at the possible reasons why he’s struggling and in the “I now understand why and I hope for a safe recovery” state of mind.

    Let’s also take a look at Kassian’s past, shall we?

    He lost his father, Mike, at 8 years old from heart condition. Throughout his career, from his 1st NHL draft to his time in Vancouver and even now, he’s always mentioned about having his father with him all the time.

    I don’t know what it’s like to lose a parent, and I’m thankful that I’ve never had to know the pain of losing one or both of them. I have, however, lost my grandfather who also happened to be my best friend.

    The loss of my grandfather almost a month before my 17th birthday was one of the most heart-wrenching moments of my life, and one that I’m still recovering from to this day. After his loss, I started to try out the whole “drink so you forget about your existing anxiety and loss” phase and I’ll tell you, I forgot. I forgot about everything for a few hours at a friend’s house on a Friday or a Saturday until I woke up the next day feeling horrible.

    Ladies and gentlemen, to put it in the simplest form, it didn’t work. Sure, it masked the pain I refused to deal with, but it didn’t bring my grandfather back. It didn’t change anything that had happened. After trying out this phase a couple of times, I realized that I didn’t want to turn to alcohol or anything negative to block it out. I had to grieve, and now I’m grieving while recovering from anxiety.

    Zack’s older brother Mike, 11 years his senior, became a surrogate father to him and his sister Amber, who was 10 when they lost their dad. Mike was only 19 when he became a father figure and while Zack can’t remember much from when his father passed, he keeps the memories he has on his back with a cross tattoo where “He’ll always be with me.”

    When I think of Kassian losing his father at such a young age, I can’t imagine the pain he went through and currently still does. In fact, it wouldn’t shock me if his addiction is being used as a reason to mask the trauma he went through at such a young age.

    No matter what the reason is, whether it’s from childhood or for different reasons or all of them combined or even no reason at all, addiction is still a problem that should be taken seriously. Luckily for Kassian, his teammates, especially captain Max Pacioretty and former Canuck and now Habs 4th liner Dale Weise are showing a strong support system for Kassian during and after his program.

    Another person who’s ready to show Kassian his support is former Canadiens forward and tough guy Chris Nilan, who dealt with substance-abuse problems with alcohol and drugs during and after his hockey career. In the latest Hockey Inside/Out Show episode when asked if he’d sit down with Kassian if he asked him, Nilan replied “In a heartbeat.”

    Kassian isn’t a bad guy. In fact, he’s an underachiever who has shown over the years that he’s an excellent passer, puts pucks on net when given the proper ice time with skilled players, and he’s determined to improve his play on the ice.

    Overall, he isn’t an enemy. He’s human, and humans make negative decisions in life. Kassian’s negative decision just comes with a lifetime of recovery, and the least hockey fans can do is show support. Adversity makes us stronger, but showing compassion and support is better than hurling jokes on Twitter, thinking you’re the next greatest stand up comedian.

    Here’s to Zack Kassian getting well and hopefully making a nice comeback with the Habs if and when he’s ready to.

    What are your thoughts on Kassian’s situation? Do you think more hockey fans should be educated on addiction? Let us know in the comments below!

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