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Storm goalie stacks pads to help break mental health stigma

Grande Prairie Storm goaltender Connor Mackenzie is bringing mental health into the spotlight with his “Lift the Mask” initiative. Every save Mackenzie makes during his last year in the Alberta Junior Hockey League will help raise money for the Canadian Mental Health Association. Mackenzie says that he started this initiative back in September, in hopes of making the biggest impact he could both on and off the ice. He explains that when he was thinking about how he could do that, there was one specific topic that he wanted to help out with, and that was the topic of mental health. 

“I thought it is something we need in the sports world and the hockey world but in everyday life,” Mackenzie said. “We can shine some light on it and get more attention and get people talking more about their mental health. Not only in young athletes but everyone in everyday life, people should be talking about their mental health and feel encouraged to do so.”

Mackenzie knows the importance of talking about mental health because he says as both an athlete and a human being he has had his experiences with mental health. As a hockey player, or any athlete really, you feel the ups and downs of a season, you feel the stress and pressure, the ups and downs of a season. Mackenzie says this is something he knows firsthand, especially as a goaltender.

“That’s why I’ve tied the campaign into the hockey aspect because a lot of my mental health adversity and struggles have come from the sport that I do love playing. It is through talking to people and getting some help through sports psychologists, – and reaching out to people through times that I have felt down.”

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Mackenzie adds that the hockey season is a long one, and over the years he has had to learn it is important to take time to focus on your mental health, to reach out the others, and to talk to people when you need help. So with all that in mind Mackenzie, along with the Grande Prairie Storm and the Canadian Mental Health Association started the Lift the Mask campaign. The netminder explains that when it comes to the fundraising portion of the campaign there are two ways people can participate. The first option is a one-time donation, and the second option is a pledge per save for Mackenzie’s first 1000 saves. The pledge per save option is where people can pledge to donate a total of $50, $100, $250, or $1000 Donation, which has a Per Save Pledge already factored into that donation amount of $0.05, $0.10, $0.25 or $1.00. All funds that are raised are being donated to the Canadian Mental Health Association Northwest Region, meaning all the money will be staying in the region.

Mackenzie says that along with the work on the ice, there also is a community component to it, both digitally and in person. On the Lift the Mask Instagram page there will be posts after every game to keep people up to date on the campaign. The Instagram also features interviews with Michael Landsberg. Landsberg runs a mental health charity called Sick Not Weak. Offline, Mackenzie wants to start going to different minor hockey teams in Grande Prairie along with schools to tell them his story and talk about the importance of mental health. On January 27th the Storm will also be holding a night completely dedicated to Mackenzie’s Lift the Mask Initiative.

“All the proceeds from the game that night, and from the intermission will be going to the initiative,” Mackenzie says. “We will be wearing specially designed Lift the Mask Jerseys that night, and I will be wearing a special helmet in net, and we will be raffling off  all the jerseys and my helmet with all the proceeds going back to the initiative as well.”

He says if people are wanting to be a part of the campaign, January 27th is a date to mark on their calendars.

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