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Robin Lehner’s Islanders Mask a Testament to His Journey

Artist David Gunnarsson says this one “made me stronger too.”

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Philadelphia Flyers v New York Islanders
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The new mask goalie Robin Lehner will wear for the New York Islanders is stunning and detailed. (And: It has the fisherman!) It also symbolizes a gripping personal story.

Well-known goalie mask artists David Gunnarsson often explains the stories behind the masks-as-canvas he does, and when he shared Lehner’s he explained that it is very personal to both of them.

Robin Lehner knew what he wanted on his new New York Islanders mask. It was truly special for me to paint this for my friend Robin,” Gunnarsson posted on Twitter.

He followed that with a link to a longer post with the artwork on Instagram:

In the caption, the sentiment unfolds in more detail:

He wanted to tell the story about his reality. He wanted the mask to be named My Reality. Robin and I have been working together since Robin was a kid . Robin wanted the mask to tell the story about the hell he has been through. You can read his brave story at The Athletic, about mental illness, bipolar diagnosis, suicide thoughts, anxiety, addiction, panic attacks. Now Robin´s new life starts for him and his family and he wanted the mask to testify of his new life☀️.

The top of the mask describes how Robin´s reality has been for years... The most important part of mask is the sides, there is the sun at dawn☀️, describing the start of the new life for Robin when he decided to seek help for himself and his family and also follow Jesus and get baptised .

It is so brave by Robin to tell his story to help other people. I am so impressed by you Robin. You also made me stronger with your story. This painting was extra emotional for me to create because since I was a kid I also have been fighting anxiety, panic attacks, OCD… And just as Robin I have seeked for help and found strength in my family and God

At the start of camp, the Islanders’ offseason signing penned a courageous post published at The Athletic reflecting on his battles with alcohol dependency, depression, and the diagnosis of bipolar 1 with manic phases after checking into the NHL-NHLPA’s substance abuse program.

On a hockey level, it’s fascinating to see him publicly acknowledge and face these challenges while joining a new team, trying to restart his career and adjust his goaltending habits under new coaching from goalie guru Mitch Korn.

And of course, on a personal and human interest level, you can’t help but pull for him and be impressed that he wants to use his story to help de-stigmatize mental health and encourage others to seek help when needed.

So much so that he’s wearing his own story on his mask.