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Atlantic university athletes face off for mental health


METRO HALIFAX - For most hockey games, especially between a couple of cross-town rivals such as the Dalhousie Tigers and Saint Mary's Huskies, winning is the one and only goal.

But for Huskies men's hockey head coach Trevor Stienburg, there's a much more important objective for both teams when the puck drops Wednesday night inside the historic Halifax Forum.

"Who cares who wins the game!?" Stienburg said of the Jan. 27 match-up. "I hate to say it ... but these two teams are playing for a pretty special cause right now."

For the first time , Atlantic University Sport has teamed up with broadcast partner BellAliant to promote the sixth annual Bell Let's Talk Day, a national initiative to spark conversation and break down stigmas about mental health.

"I'm all about the wins," Stienburg said, but he also hopes campaigns such as this encourage everyone, from student-athletes themselves to the fans in attendance, to be "strong enough to share" their personal mental health stories.

In addition to the Tigers hosting the Huskies in regular season action on Bell Let's Talk Day, there are three other men's games Wednesday, with the Acadia Axemen hosting the St. Francis Xavier X-Men, the UPEI Panthers welcoming the Moncton Aigles Bleus in Charlottetown and the St. Thomas Tommies hosting the UNB Varsity Reds in Fredericton. Game time is 7 p.m. for all four match-ups.

The first few hundred fans through the doors will receive a Bell Let's Talk toque, while stations will be set up at each venue so fans can create "personalized speech bubbles," snap photos "to share on social media" and sign "banners to show their support," according to a recent AUS news release.

"That's the strongest thing," Stienburg said, "just to have the courage and show a little bit of vulnerability."

Stienburg isn't just talking this idea up; he's talking about his own emotional struggles.

During the 2013-14 season, after more than a decade and a half with the Huskies, the bench boss "took 90 days off ... because I was overwhelmed."

"I think everybody looks at me and thinks, 'Here's a big ape of a dummy,' and ... 'Geez, he's on top of the world.' "

At that point Stienburg had claimed his fourth AUS Coach of the Year Award, third CIS Coach of the Year Award and brought black silver from the previous season's Canadian Interuniversity Sport championship.

"So much, I thought was expected of me, and I really didn't feel like I was living up to it," he explained. "I didn't feel I was being fair to my guys; I thought I was being really short with them, and angry."

Knowing his Huskies weren't having fun, he pulled "the thorn" out of the the Huskies hockey program - himself. He handed the helm over to assistant coach Tyler Naugler for the first half of that season.

"Sometimes the guys with the biggest chests, are the guys that are protecting something," Stienburg said.

But from the BellAliant FibreOp YouTube page to across social media channels, AUS coaches and athletes are now opening up to the public.

Tigers hockey captain Luke Madill tells viewers people close to him have struggled with mental illness, explaining that "like cancer, it just sneaks up on you."

Cape Breton Capers soccer player Becky Hanna posted a video publicly to her Facebook page Jan. 19, tagged with #BellLetsTalk, to share her ongoing battle with bulimia nervosa. As of Tuesday night, her video had 4,269 shares and 185,000 views.

"It's one of many stories within the AUS, and within our student-athlete population," AUS executive director Phil Currie said Tuesday.

"And whether it's telling a story, or it's listening, it's all helpful and healing."

Suicide accounts for 24 per cent of all deaths among 15- to 24-year-olds, according to the AUS. Student-athletes in particular are often expected to "perform at a high level" both in sport and school, which Currie said can negatively impact their mental health.

"There's a lot of pressure," he said.

Stienburg added, "you tend to realize, those wins and losses, are more in our heads as coaches and players, than they are in anybody else's."

"Sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves, and expectations."

The slogan for the Atlantic University Sport and Bell Let's Talk Partnership is One Team For Mental Health. The AUS is the first Canadian Interuniversity Sport conference to get on board the national mental health awareness campaign.

Atlantic University Sport men's hockey standings prior to Wednesday night's action across the conference:

 

1) Acadia Axemen *

2) UNB Varsity Reds *

3) St. Francis Xavier X-Men *

4) Saint Mary's Huskies

5) UPEI Panthers

6) Moncton Bleus Aigles

7) Dalhousie Tigers

8) St. Thomas Tommies

* Clinched AUS playoff berth

Women's AUS hockey also hits ice again Wednesday

Women's hockey Atlantic University Sport action is also set for Wednesday night, with the Moncton Aigles Bleues hosting the UPEI Panthers and the St. Francis Xavier X-Women hosting the Saint Mary's Huskies. The puck drops at 7 p.m. on both games.

Atlantic University Sport women's hockey standings prior to Wednesday night's four action across the conference:

1) Saint Mary's Huskies

2) Moncton Aigles Bleues

3) St. Thomas Tommies

4) Mount Allison Mounties

5) St. Francis Xavier X-Women

6) Dalhousie Tigers

7) UPEI Panthers

Join the mental health conversation

Every text message, wireless and long distance call made by Bell Aliant and Bell Canada customers, every tweet using #BellLetsTalk, and every Facebook share of the Bell Let's Talk image on Facebook will donate five cents more to mental health programs.

But for Huskies men's hockey head coach Trevor Stienburg, there's a much more important objective for both teams when the puck drops Wednesday night inside the historic Halifax Forum.

"Who cares who wins the game!?" Stienburg said of the Jan. 27 match-up. "I hate to say it ... but these two teams are playing for a pretty special cause right now."

For the first time , Atlantic University Sport has teamed up with broadcast partner BellAliant to promote the sixth annual Bell Let's Talk Day, a national initiative to spark conversation and break down stigmas about mental health.

"I'm all about the wins," Stienburg said, but he also hopes campaigns such as this encourage everyone, from student-athletes themselves to the fans in attendance, to be "strong enough to share" their personal mental health stories.

In addition to the Tigers hosting the Huskies in regular season action on Bell Let's Talk Day, there are three other men's games Wednesday, with the Acadia Axemen hosting the St. Francis Xavier X-Men, the UPEI Panthers welcoming the Moncton Aigles Bleus in Charlottetown and the St. Thomas Tommies hosting the UNB Varsity Reds in Fredericton. Game time is 7 p.m. for all four match-ups.

The first few hundred fans through the doors will receive a Bell Let's Talk toque, while stations will be set up at each venue so fans can create "personalized speech bubbles," snap photos "to share on social media" and sign "banners to show their support," according to a recent AUS news release.

"That's the strongest thing," Stienburg said, "just to have the courage and show a little bit of vulnerability."

Stienburg isn't just talking this idea up; he's talking about his own emotional struggles.

During the 2013-14 season, after more than a decade and a half with the Huskies, the bench boss "took 90 days off ... because I was overwhelmed."

"I think everybody looks at me and thinks, 'Here's a big ape of a dummy,' and ... 'Geez, he's on top of the world.' "

At that point Stienburg had claimed his fourth AUS Coach of the Year Award, third CIS Coach of the Year Award and brought black silver from the previous season's Canadian Interuniversity Sport championship.

"So much, I thought was expected of me, and I really didn't feel like I was living up to it," he explained. "I didn't feel I was being fair to my guys; I thought I was being really short with them, and angry."

Knowing his Huskies weren't having fun, he pulled "the thorn" out of the the Huskies hockey program - himself. He handed the helm over to assistant coach Tyler Naugler for the first half of that season.

"Sometimes the guys with the biggest chests, are the guys that are protecting something," Stienburg said.

But from the BellAliant FibreOp YouTube page to across social media channels, AUS coaches and athletes are now opening up to the public.

Tigers hockey captain Luke Madill tells viewers people close to him have struggled with mental illness, explaining that "like cancer, it just sneaks up on you."

Cape Breton Capers soccer player Becky Hanna posted a video publicly to her Facebook page Jan. 19, tagged with #BellLetsTalk, to share her ongoing battle with bulimia nervosa. As of Tuesday night, her video had 4,269 shares and 185,000 views.

"It's one of many stories within the AUS, and within our student-athlete population," AUS executive director Phil Currie said Tuesday.

"And whether it's telling a story, or it's listening, it's all helpful and healing."

Suicide accounts for 24 per cent of all deaths among 15- to 24-year-olds, according to the AUS. Student-athletes in particular are often expected to "perform at a high level" both in sport and school, which Currie said can negatively impact their mental health.

"There's a lot of pressure," he said.

Stienburg added, "you tend to realize, those wins and losses, are more in our heads as coaches and players, than they are in anybody else's."

"Sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves, and expectations."

The slogan for the Atlantic University Sport and Bell Let's Talk Partnership is One Team For Mental Health. The AUS is the first Canadian Interuniversity Sport conference to get on board the national mental health awareness campaign.

Atlantic University Sport men's hockey standings prior to Wednesday night's action across the conference:

 

1) Acadia Axemen *

2) UNB Varsity Reds *

3) St. Francis Xavier X-Men *

4) Saint Mary's Huskies

5) UPEI Panthers

6) Moncton Bleus Aigles

7) Dalhousie Tigers

8) St. Thomas Tommies

* Clinched AUS playoff berth

Women's AUS hockey also hits ice again Wednesday

Women's hockey Atlantic University Sport action is also set for Wednesday night, with the Moncton Aigles Bleues hosting the UPEI Panthers and the St. Francis Xavier X-Women hosting the Saint Mary's Huskies. The puck drops at 7 p.m. on both games.

Atlantic University Sport women's hockey standings prior to Wednesday night's four action across the conference:

1) Saint Mary's Huskies

2) Moncton Aigles Bleues

3) St. Thomas Tommies

4) Mount Allison Mounties

5) St. Francis Xavier X-Women

6) Dalhousie Tigers

7) UPEI Panthers

Join the mental health conversation

Every text message, wireless and long distance call made by Bell Aliant and Bell Canada customers, every tweet using #BellLetsTalk, and every Facebook share of the Bell Let's Talk image on Facebook will donate five cents more to mental health programs.

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