Photo: Blair Adams/Kitchener Today
Hockey is by no means an easy sport, and the effect it can have internally on a player has been well-documented, with many players opening up about mental illnesses or issues brought on by the long hockey season, physical strain, and the pressures of being a professional athelete. Former Washington Capital Steve Seftel and Baltimore Skipjack (the Capitals’ former American Hockey League affiliate) is one such case of a player who struggled with a mental illness and he opens up about his struggle in his new book, Shattered Ice.
Drafted by the Capitals in the second-round (40th overall) of the 1986 NHL Entry Draft, Seftel played five seasons in the Capitals organization, including four games in the NHL in 1990-91, where he recorded two shots and minus-2 rating, with no points; aside from his brief appearance with the Capitals, Seftel played most of his professional career with the Caps’ AHL affiliates Binghamton Whalers (1987-88, three games) and Baltimore Skipjacks (1988-92), recording 108 points (46 goals, 62 assists) in 219 games played.
Shattered Ice details Seftel’s career, including his time playing alongside Dale Hunter and John Druce in the NHL, his time playing under coaches such as Doug McLean, Terry and Bryan Murray, and Barry Trotz (the latter three all former Head Coaches of the Capitals), and his childhood along with other experiences during his career, but also focuses on his struggles with a mental illness throughout his career, an illness that would later be diagnosed as a combination of obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, and a panic disorder.
In a recent interview with The Whig Seftel revealed that he kept his mental struggles a secret due to a “suck it up” mentality, saying:
“It was more of a ‘suck it up mentality,’”. Especially when you’re a male athlete and hockey player. We all know the expectations that you do whatever it takes and you soldier on during the toughest of times. They’re was no avenue to talk about not feeling good mentally; you get back on the ice and suck it up and let’s get at ‘er.”
After his career ended, Seftel struggled mightily, with the struggles reaching a breaking point in February 2018, when he was unable to leave his bed and several weeks after, experienced swelling in his knees, shoulders, and groin. Only since March of this year has Seftel, now 51, been able to regain normal physical activities and will soon return to the Toyota plant he has worked at since 1995, sometime after Labor Day. Seftel has sought help from a doctor, psychotherapist, psychologist in addition to medication.
What happens when your old coach @DougMaclean tells you that one of the toughest of all time is coming after you during your 1st game? Find out in this clip from our most recent episode w/ @slseftel! DL the episode on iTunes or at https://t.co/LmgVgm3nqd #goon #ALLCAPS #AHL #NHL pic.twitter.com/woik3xX3Cu
— Snapshots In Hockey History (@SnapshotsIn) August 7, 2019
Seftel’s story highlights the struggles that so many hockey players have dealt and may deal with over the course of their careers. And while some have been lost as a result of these internal struggles, Seftel is one whose story can provide an inspiration to those that feel as though they have nowhere to turn.
Shattered Ice is available for purchase on Amazon.com
By Michael Fleetwood