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LATEST | Former 1st Round Pick reveals the heartbreaking reason for his pre-matured retirement

Published March 16, 2023 at 9:59
BY FELIP GOSSELIN

High-level athletes are high-level performers, some are driven by pressure while others are eaten by the stress that gets to them.

Slater Koekkoek was the Tampa Bay Lightning's 10th overall selection back in 2012, he was then seen as the next big thing as a capable two-way defenseman. Things never quite panned out for him with the Lightning, after a few years in Tampa Bay, he ended up in Chicago and most recently spent time with the Oilers before he stepped away from the game and has not yet looked back.

Koekkoek took his decision to social media and revealed he'd been in great pain with his situation. He revealed in an open letter that he chose his mental health over the game since it had brought him to an unhealthy and unbearable place in his life. Here are his comments:

«I left the game just over a year ago and thought I would share a little bit of my story throughout the next while In case someone else is feeling shame towards their anxiety. You are not alone.
I left the game because my life inside of it had gotten to a place that was unbearable and unhealthy towards my mental health.
I would say I plaved a majority of my professional games without the ability to eat much, if anything, the night before and the day of the games. Hockey Night in Canada on a completely empty stomach? Lets do this, I quess.
Anxiety shows up in all shapes and forms, one of the ways mine did was the inability to eat.
I would get comments from teammates saying "hey
Kooks you know the meals are free" due to my weight dwindling, without them knowing the pain I was going through. I would hear from Ms and Coaches that I needed to put on weight if I was to battle in the corners with the elite of the league not to mention the energy needed to complete these tasks as well. That just put on increased pressure.
I would be asked to go for dinner with teammates on the road. Knowing I wouldn't be able to eat, I would isolate myself and usually walk the streets settling to discreetly bring takeout to my hotel room so nobody would know if I ate or not. I kept this in as much as I could my entire career. My dad had a nervous tummy growing up, I thought that is all I had. But when being continuously scrutinized for my on ice performance it caused a downward spiral. A vicious cycle of needing to eat but physically being unable.
Be kind to one another because you never know what someone might be going through. And stop commenting on people's weight... it's friggen weird.»




The former player surely took a great step toward a possible recovery by opening up to the world about his illness. Obviously, it's something that's been affecting him his whole life and he took the right decision when he decided to take care of himself first. He used his social media reach to send an extremely powerful message, mental health is not a joke and it must be dealt with firsthand. Don't be afraid to speak up, you are not alone.

Koekkoek is still under contract with the Oilers at the moment, neither the team nor he is expecting a come-back. Moving forward, we wish him the best and to feel good about himself.
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