TORONTO — Mitch Marner had already scored a beautiful winner and answered multiple rounds of questions, fulfilling his duties as the evening’s overtime hero.
Still sweating in half gear, the Toronto Maple Leafs star was seconds away from a well-deserved Thursday off.
But Marner requested the scrum of dressing-room reporters lean back in. He had something else to say.
Inspired by Bell Let’s Talk Day, Marner chose to use his platform to amplify a broader message.
“Never be afraid to reach out. Call someone. Ask people how they’re doing,” Marner said, not sticking to sports after a win over the New York Rangers.
“We’re all there for one another, and we want this world to be a better place. So don’t be afraid to reach out to anyone in need. You got a lot of people around you that love you and want to talk to you and make sure you’re OK. So never be afraid to reach out.”
Marner says his appreciation of mental health has evolved drastically since he turned pro seven years ago.
The roller coaster that is life in Toronto’s hockey fishbowl and the 82-game pressure cooker of the NHL grind have played no small part in that.
More specifically, though, Marner said he and fiancée Stephanie LaChance’s carjacking in May still affects his thoughts and fears outside of the rink.
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“That incident that happened this past summer just really weighs on you mentally if you don’t talk about it and don’t really express yourself. Sometimes, incidents happen that you need to express yourself and talk to people about. And I think that’s something I’ve really done a great job of these last couple years is not being afraid to reach out and talk about it and try and get a better understanding or just try to understand myself better,” Marner said.
“If you have a strong mentality, you’re pretty hard to break out there on the ice.”
In May, Toronto Police went searching for three suspects armed with two handguns and a knife. The thieves took off in Marner’s black Range Rover outside the Queensway movie theatre, a short drive from the Maple Leafs’ training facility in Etobicoke.
Marner said in July that he and LaChance were bowled over by the outpouring of support once the carjacking went public.
On Wednesday, Marner shared that, although no one was physically harmed in the robbery, the echoes of that confrontation still creep into his mind.
“It definitely does,” Marner explained. “Throughout late nights or just weird atmospheres, weird vibes you get sometimes.
“It’s something that still kind of goes in your mind every once in a while, when you’re getting into car late night or something. You never know what’s gonna happen. You gotta be aware of your surroundings.”
The carjacking has made Marner more alert, more on edge. Yet also more resourceful and comfortable in seeking help from others.
“You want everyone to be perfect and love each other in this world, but sometimes it doesn’t happen. So, you just got to be aware out there,” Marner said.
“If something does happen to you, I think you shouldn’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone and try and figure out how to kind of get yourself out of it. You know, it’s not a bad idea to ever talk to someone about anything.”