The Anaheim Ducks have a dressing room full of medical professionals who know how to treat and care for players who suffer from mental illness. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear a young woman in charge of fitness-related therapy tell a young player that he needs to not get too caught up in the game and should know how to deal with life and not make it a big deal.
The player in question is Jay Bouwmeester, and he got very caught up when his teammates would attack him in the offensive zone and coach Randy Carlyle would stand over him and yell at him and slap his arm in frustration.
After a while, Bouwmeester began to let the hitting get to him, especially by young players who weren’t getting hit. He was getting beat up in practice, both good and bad. Bouwmeester was giving less than 100% in his effort to help the Ducks advance.
Under strong prodding, he went to the Ducks’ training center for a psychological evaluation, a procedure that is normally done for medical treatment rather than on a therapist’s recommendation.
He went to treatment, and later that day, he learned from Ducks General Manager Bob Murray that he had decided to return to the team. Bouwmeester was so elated that a call from Carlyle later that night was overwhelming.
“I was in shock,” Bouwmeester said Thursday at his Anaheim hotel before the Ducks flew to Denver. “When the manager says that, it makes a huge difference because I was counting on his opinion before. That was huge. I always like to go in with an open mind. So when the GM said that, it was such a pleasant surprise. He even said if they did a second, I should come back here. That one left an impression because it’s rare to get that.”
Bouwmeester said he had what he calls “life stress” at the time, and in coming to grips with it was one of the first important steps in taking the next step toward getting better.
“Every time you see me smiling, that’s because of that guy,” Bouwmeester said. “For me, to see him smiling made me smile because the guy cared so much. … That was a big, big thing. It was something that took courage. I’m glad I did it.”
Some people might call it a medical procedure, but it’s really a psychological one.
“I just wanted to get some answers,” he said. “Not that I had done anything wrong. To get the support you need, that takes some guts.”
“That would have definitely helped if I didn’t have that service when I had the option of going back to the bench.”
Bottom line is that Bouwmeester recognized and recognized that he needed help and needed to get it. He was fortunate to have been helped, with the understanding of both the Ducks’ medical staff and Carlyle.
It’s not easy to understand the burden it can carry.
“That the doctors and the staff from the hockey club were there for me during my time of need was a blessing,” Bouwmeester said. “The support that was provided by Randy and the staff was great. I was expecting to be surprised, but it was the opposite. That the team would support me, it was awesome. I’m very fortunate I had that for me.”
Bouwmeester has no complaints. He knows the Ducks are a championship-caliber team with the ability to play hockey well into May and June. But at age 35, his career is winding down.
“It’s one of those things, in the back of your mind, it’s in the back of your mind,” he said. “I didn’t want to think about it while I was playing. But you try not to think about it, you try to go about your business as normal. But you kind of have to dig down deep in your mind to not think about it. This is a business where you go out there and you don’t want to let anybody down.”
It’s been a long ride for Bouwmeester and his wife, Christina, who have two children, Brendan, 6, and Caitlin, 4.
“She handles everything so well,” Bouwmeester said. “She’s a bright young lady. That doesn’t get me anything.”