Ales Hemsky Opens Up About His Mental Health After Retiring From the NHL

Mackenzie Stern-Kolesnikow
March 31, 2023  (8:58 PM)

Aleš Hemský had a successful NHL career, spanning over 15 seasons, before retiring in 2018 due to medical reasons and a desire to spend more time with his family. However, retirement took a heavy toll on his mental health, causing him to develop depression and resentment towards his children. Hemský struggled with the loss of his purpose and felt that he should still be playing at his young age when he retired. He shared his struggles with mental health and encouraged others to seek help if they are experiencing similar feelings.

Hemsky Talked About His Mental Health

In an interview with The Athletic, Hemský opened up about his retirement and the difficulty of accepting that he could no longer play the sport he loved:
"I realized it's probably time to enjoy my kids," Hemsky told The Athletic this week. "The doctors were saying I shouldn't play anymore. It took me a long time to get peace with that. It's hard when you do something for so long. You know you can play somewhere, but you can't. That's the hard part."

After retirement, Hemský felt lost and struggled to find meaning in his life. He explained that he saw nothing but emptiness and that he had lost the meaning of life, despite having a wonderful family. He recognized that he had met all the conditions of depression and had even contemplated ending his life.
Hemský's main message to others is that it's okay to not be okay and that people should reach out if they are struggling. He advised others to find at least one person to confide in and seek help from. He acknowledged that it can be difficult to share personal struggles, but it's important to do so.
Hemsky's main message he wants to spread to people is that «it's ok to not be ok», and to reach out if you're having such feelings.

«At 35, the age when I had retired but wanted to keep playing, I was just aimlessly changing diapers and refusing to accept that hockey was over. When my son cried, I reacted with total irritation and anger toward my own child,» recalled Ales Hemsky.

«I saw nothing but emptiness everywhere. I may have made good money during my career, but what good is that if I lost something I love? What made me who I am? It seemed to me that I had lost the meaning of life even though I had a wonderful wife and son at home. I met probably all the conditions of depression, I really thought that I was not normal. At that time, I thought that I would end it all.»

"No one should be put in such a situation. If so, they should definitely tell someone about it. Find at least one person to whom you can tell that you have a problem. You don't even have to tell him everything in detail. I myself know how difficult it is. I've also always kept everything to myself.»

The experience of Hemský highlights the need for more resources to support the mental health of past and current NHL players. Retirement from any job is difficult, and for professional athletes, the transition can be especially challenging. By offering more support and resources, the NHL can help promote better mental health for their retired players.