First Line

The NHLPA, in collaboration with Opening Minds and the Mental Health Commission of Canada, is proud to have launched First Line, an education and leadership program developed to strengthen NHLPA members’ mental health knowledge and skills.

The first of its kind in professional sports, First Line was developed by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, Opening Minds and the NHLPA’s Health and Wellness Team  specifically for NHL players. This program is designed to directly address the issues faced by players and their families.

First Line will:

  • Increase knowledge about common mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, substance use and self-harm;
  • Provide skills for offering peer-to-peer support; and
  • Educate about the stigma of mental illness and how to combat it.

Players who are graduates of the First Line will be empowered to act as advocates for mental health and to provide and seek support when necessary. 

First Line is a course that is designed to be completed in a group format. Delivered in-person or online, the course is offered to NHLPA members on a voluntary basis and is delivered by NHLPA consulting psychologist and former NHL player, Jay Harrison. All players who complete the First Line will receive a certificate of completion from the Mental Health Commission of Canada in recognition of completion.

Mikael Backlund and Blake Wheeler were among the first 20 NHLPA members to participate in First Line training. The players share why it was important to them to get involved in the voluntary program in the video clip below, shared during the official launch of the program January 10, 2024.

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