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Dallas Stars Biweekly Links: The Stephen Johns Story That Can Finally Be Told

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One of the most courageous things a human can do is ask for help. Plus, the NHL Draft Lottery goes virtual, checking in with Seattle Team To Be Named Later, and more.

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NHL: Dallas Stars at Minnesota Wild Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

After 22 months out of play, Stephen Johns almost made his comeback look easy. He racked up the first four-point game of his professional career in his first conditioning match with the Texas Stars. Then there was that incredible performance against the New York Rangers, including his first NHL goal in nearly two years, after only four games back with the Dallas Stars.

Indeed, No. 28 was playing some of the best hockey of his life before the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly rang down the curtain on the 2019-20 season. But there’s a much bigger, more personal story behind his comeback, and now he’s sharing it in the hope that it might help others.

In a new article on how Johns, his family, and the Stars handled the past two and a half years, Sean Shapiro has written what may be the most important piece of his career. As for Stephen Johns, the courage he’s shown in sharing his mental and emotional struggles with his injury may be the most important thing he has ever done, too:

At his lowest, Johns found it nearly impossible to sleep. Even when he could, his rest was always fitful. Sometimes he just stared at the ceiling and composed suicide notes in his head.

His chronic headaches had turned into a mental minefield.

“I would wake up at 4 in the morning and think about it more, then I would take some anxiety medicine during the day to take a nap and it just put me into a vicious cycle,” Johns said. “I wasn’t really eating, I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t doing anything. … It took me a long time to escape that cycle of thinking those horrible things.”

Neither Johns nor his doctors are sure just how he healed physically, and it seems to frustrate him that he can’t offer those concrete answers when other head-injury patients reach out to him. But the importance of an emotional support system is impossible to overstate, as Johns and his longtime girlfriend, Taylor Zakarin, can attest:

There was no one turning point that put Johns on the road to recovery. Much of those 17 months are a blur. But somewhere along the way, Johns reached out for help. He told Zakarin about his depression and his suicidal thoughts. Then he told Stars general manager Jim Nill and his agents Steve and Brian Bartlett. In one of the scariest moments of his life, Johns leaned on those who cared about him.

“He was open with me about that, and for that, I’m forever grateful,” Zakarin said. “I’m so grateful he felt like that was something he could talk to me about without judgment, something he could talk to me without fear I would freak out.”

There’s so much more under the link, so I’ll just let Tyler Seguin have the last word here. [The Athletic DFW]


Stars Stuff

Ready or not, training camp begins in two weeks.

Meanwhile, if you have an extra grand or so, you might have a shot at Seggy’s Pride stick – and here’s the correct link, just in case you’re intrigued. [GiveSmart You Can Play auction]

Around The League(s)

With Coronavirus cases on the rise in Texas, it should come as no surprise that Dallas is now officially out of the hub-city running.

Just a reminder: The Hockey Hall of Fame waits for no virus.

Elsewhere, some real NHL action is coming later this week. Set your alarm!

When was the last time you heard from Seattle Team To Be Named Later? They’re having a few technical problems, so do not adjust your set.

The New York City Gay Hockey Association is celebrating Pride Month by serving some of the city’s most vulnerable citizens.

Greetings From Beautiful Boise

The Idaho Steelheads are running a hockey-hair bracket, and who else is here for it?

Finally

How many targets is Hockey Helps the Homeless hitting with just one campaign? And who else saw the Original 6 Goalie version and did a Fry? Enjoy.