The circumstances under which Patrik Berglund dropped out of the public view in December 2018 were unclear at the time. The 30-year-old center left over $12 million on the table when he unexpectedly returned home to Sweden.
In an exclusive Swedish language interview with Hockeypuls SE, Berglund spoke about why he made the decision to prioritize his well-being and healing above financial considerations.
The interview is translated by RMNB’s Magnus Cadelin.
Berglund had spent the first ten years of his NHL career in St. Louis with the Blues, and had played for only one club in Sweden growing up, as is standard for most European players. Over the summer, he was traded for the first time, to the Buffalo Sabres.
He was still playing professional hockey in the best league in the world, he liked the team and franchise he had been traded to, but something wasn’t right.
“I’ve been living a dream life and been able to do what I love,” Berglund said. “And then I just sit there. And feel nothing. I tell you, my mind was just exhausted.”
The exhaustion and struggle began even before the season started and continued to build until things reached a breaking point.
“Time went on. I didn’t say anything and tried to get through it day by day,” Berglund said. “You shouldn’t feel the way I felt when you’re living your dream.”
In early December, after walking out of a practice, Berglund made the decision to return to Sweden. His failure to report for practice and a game resulted in his being placed on unconditional waivers.
He doesn’t hold any grudge against the organization, the NHL, or the NHLPA for their actions. “It was a perfectly correct suspension,” he said. “The league and the NHLPA were incredible in their ways to offer me help, but I needed to decide for myself what I had to do to find happiness again.”
Berglund expressed his gratitude for the support of friends, family, and former teammates who have reached out and continue to support him.
One of those people is former teammate and roommate TJ Oshie. Oshie spoke with the Athletic’s Joe Yerdon after Berglund’s struggle in Buffalo began.
“He’s a really, really great person and so I respect him a lot for him kind of taking control here and getting done what he needs to get done,” Oshie said. “For me and a lot of his good buddies and family…we’ll just support him. I’ve been in contact with him and just like you are for your dad or your mom, for a close family member that’s how I’ll be and how the rest of us will be for Berg-dog.”
The NHL has been making progress by speaking more openly and honestly about the importance of mental health. Berglund’s decision to put his well-being first is in alignment with the NHL’s priorities.
My contract and all the money I forfeited isn’t worth anything. This is something of a cliche, but money can’t buy you happiness. I’ll give up that kind of money any day to feel good inside. If I’m feeling as bad as I did, and still do to this day, then I really think I made the right choice. Money is the last thing that means anything at this moment.
Why should I be out there, doing something I don’t love in the same way anymore and put on a facade and pretend I’m alright when I really feel like shit?
Hockey has been my life. For me, hockey isn’t a job, it’s something I’ve loved. If I lose that and feel incredibly bad then I don’t understand why I should keep doing it.
Berglund confirmed that he is done playing hockey for the season and isn’t sure whether or not he’ll play professionally again.
“Right now, I need to get some help and to get away from hockey,” Berglund said. “It will take the time it takes.”
Headline photo: Bruce Bennett
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