Stephen Johns, a finalist for the 2020 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, announced his retirement from the NHL in an Instagram post on Sunday. In that same post, Johns shared his plan to rollerblade and road trip cross country to “help others facing their own battles.”
Johns was named a finalist for the league’s award to the player who exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey after playing 17 games for the Dallas Stars in 2020. He played four seasons in the NHL with the Stars but bounced between Dallas and its AHL team from 2015-2020. Johns returned to Dallas last year after 22 months away from the game recovering from headaches and post-concussion syndrome.
The 29-year-old opened up about experiencing suicidal thoughts while dealing with post-traumatic symptoms, according to a piece by Sean Shapiro for The Athletic. In that article, Johns admitted that had lost hope of finding a solution for his symptoms.
Now that he’s stepped away from the game, Johns is using the summer to travel across the United States and bring awareness to the mental health struggles he’s faced.
“What I’ll miss most about the game of hockey is providing inspiration,” Johns said in his post. “So I’ve decided to rollerblade and road-trip across the country to hopefully help others facing their own battles. I’ll be documenting along the way, to share my full story, because I know what it feels like to be alone.
“For me, I watched one video and it changed my life and made me want to do this crazy thing. If I can still inspire one person to climb out of their hole, then that’s a successful trip and exactly what I’m aiming for.”
Through 167 NHL games, Johns amassed 33 points (15 goals, 18 assists). He found more success in the AHL, putting up 44 assists and 57 points in 118 games. He was a member of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program and won a gold medal at the 2010 IIHF World U18 Championships. Johns played four seasons of collegiate hockey at the University of Notre Dame and was named an alternate captain one year after competing with Team USA at the 2012 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships.
According to social media, Johns trip will kick off today, but there is no information about where he is starting or where he plans to go.