Colin Wilson is ready to move on in a happy, healthy way.
Now granted, if you’ve been keeping up with the general goings-on of NHL free agency over the past few months, this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, as Wilson announced that he would likely not return to professional hockey, citing his problems coping with obsessive-compulsive disorder and the substance abuse pertaining from it, as well as his struggles recovering from hip surgery the previous season back in October, but now, five days into the new year, it’s official.
And if October 26th, 2019 really is the final time we collectively see Wilson take the ice in a game of consequence, at least he left a lasting impact on the game both on and off the ice.
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A third-generation hockey player born in Greenwich, Connecticut but raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Wilson parlayed a fantastic two-year tenure with the Boston University Terriers into a one-way ticket to Nashville as the seventh overall selection in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Though Wilson never quite lived up to the sky-high expectations many had after his time at BU, only surpassing 40 points once in 2014-15, the left-handed forward was a stalwart of some pretty darn good Predators squads before being traded to Colorado in 2017.
Overall, Wilson leaves a legacy of 286 points over 632 regular season games with 214 blocks, 425 hits, and 214 takeaways to his credit.
If that was that, Wilson would casually fade into the fond memories of Predators and Avalanche fans the world over, but his decision to open up about why his career is ending and that the 31-year-old could conceivably still keep playing for the next few years is what will ultimately cement his legacy outside of the rink.
In a touching blog post on The Players Tribune that you should 100 percent read in full here, Wilson detailed the lifelong struggles he’s fought through while dealing with OCD, with quotes like the following being particularly heartbreaking:
"To this day, I honestly have no d*mn clue how I scored 20 goals in the 2014–15 season. I played each game, for years, in this state of panic because my OCD had begun to take over every element of my life. I went from obsessing over injuries off the ice to thinking I was going to get hurt every time I stepped on it — thinking I’d get hurt every shift. Or feeling like my skates weren’t tied properly. I’d have to stay in the locker room and tie them over and over again, as tight as I could, until my hands bled. And that was just a short-term fix. For years, I felt like I was skating on stilts because my skates never felt right. But I just got into this terrible state, like a petrified animal trapped in a corner. I was almost unconscious on the ice, in a way."
My goodness, that’s a tough read.
While Wilson’s story, at least to this point, has a happy ending, as he’s fully clean and has found the right coping mechanisms to fully move forward with his life in a positive way, this newfound clarity has come at the expense of his hockey career – as the 31-year-old has opted to fully focus on getting his mind and body right in addition to completing his Psychology degree in Boston.
As crazy as it may be to say, this single heartfelt essay may be more impactful for breaking the stigma of mental illness in sports than his tens of thousands of minutes on ice.
Even in sports – especially in sports – it’s all too common to keep personal issues to oneself in order to maintain a perception of strength when in actuality, there’s nothing stronger than being honest and forthright with your problems. Had Colin Wilson taken his OCD seriously a decade ago, maybe he’d still be playing in the NHL, but in my personal opinion, I think the Nashville Predators/Colorado Avalanche forward has 100 percent made the right call by focusing on his health and moving forward in a positive light. Because after all, without your health, what do you really have?