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Lehner declines invitation to play for Sweden at 2022 Olympics

Golden Knights goalie cites health reasons for turning down opportunity

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

Robin Lehner will not play for Sweden at the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

The Vegas Golden Knights goalie said he did not accept an invitation to participate in the men's hockey tournament, scheduled for Feb. 9-19, because of health reasons discussed with his psychiatrist.

"I actually turned down to go to the Olympics," Lehner said after a 3-2 win against the Calgary Flames on Sunday. "I'd rather it come from me than anyone else."

Lehner was expected to compete with Jacob Markstrom of the Flames to start for Sweden. He said later Sunday that he was disappointed to have to make the tough decision to turn down a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

"Reality is that what [has] been said about how it's going to be is not ideal for my mental health," Lehner said via Twitter. "My well-being [has to] come first, and being locked down and not knowing what happens if you test positive (for COVID-19) is [too] much of a risk for me. Sweden will have a great team, and Markstrom is a beast. Hope people understand."

Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said he projects Lehner to play 50-60 games this season. The 30-year-old has not started at least 50 games since 2017-18 (50 for the Buffalo Sabres). His NHL career high is 58 with the Sabres in 2016-17.

Lehner is 10-9-0 with a 3.02 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in 19 games this season.

"I haven't known for a long time, but I know it was a decision that [Robin] was weighing," DeBoer said. "There's a lot of factors that I think went into it. I think that we're committed to making sure that we have two solid goaltenders here and that both guys play. Whether Robin goes to the Olympics or doesn't go to the Olympics, I don't think that changes and 'LB' (backup Laurent Brossoit) has shown that he can play and help us."

DeBoer will be an assistant for Canada on the staff of Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper.

"I think it's a very personal decision," DeBoer said. "Every guy that has that opportunity has to weigh the opportunity of playing in the Olympics. You dream about that, with everything else that goes into that part, family and health. That's real personal to everybody. I know I'm getting an opportunity to go. I'd swim over there if I get a chance to go."

New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad, Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman and Colorado Avalanche forward Gabriel Landeskog were the first names submitted to be part of Sweden's team at the 2022 Olympics.

The NHL and NHL Players' Association reached an agreement with the International Ice Hockey Federation for NHL players to participate in the Olympics after the NHL skipped the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. The 2021-22 NHL regular season will break from Feb. 3-22 for the 2022 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and the Olympic men's hockey tournament.

The agreement allows for the possibility of a later decision to withdraw from the event if evolving COVID-19 conditions are deemed by the NHL and NHLPA to be impractical or unsafe.

Lehner has been a proponent for mental health since revealing in 2018 that he was diagnosed with bipolar I disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and that he had struggled with alcohol abuse and an addiction to sleeping pills.

"I'm always going to advocate for mental health," Lehner said Oct. 5." If it can help one percent, I'm really happy about that."

Lehner, who was selected by the Ottawa Senators in the second round (No. 46) of the 2009 NHL Draft, is 139-133-47 with a 2.71 GAA, .917 save percentage and 16 shutouts in 339 games (320 starts) for the Senators, Sabres, New York Islanders, Chicago Blackhawks and Golden Knights. He was a finalist for the 2019 Vezina Trophy, awarded to the best goalie in the NHL, after going 25-13-5 with a 2.13 GAA, .930 save percentage and six shutouts for the Islanders, all personal bests in a full NHL season.

Tweet from @RobinLehner: Great performance tonight from our team. Have to address I will not go to the olympics. I���m very disappointed and it tough decision for me as it���s once in life time opportunity. Reality is that what have been said about how it���s going to be is not ideal for my mental health.

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