Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Oliver Kylington opens up about battle with mental illness, shares excitement for return to Calgary
By Mike Gould6 months ago
The Calgary Flames sorely missed Oliver Kylington in the 2022–23 season — and he missed them, too.
The 26-year-old Swede emerged as a top-four defenceman for the Flames on a pairing with Chris Tanev in 2021–22, racking up 31 points in 73 games and providing a dynamic element from the blue line.
Kylington signed a two-year contract extension with the Flames last summer, but he didn’t report to the club’s 2022 training camp. Then-general manager Brad Treliving kept the details of Kylington’s situation private, only sharing that his absence had nothing to do with substance abuse.
On Thursday, Kylington opened up about what he experienced during the 2022–23 season in an interview with Swedish journalist Henrik Sjöberg for HockeyNews-SE.
“It was a very challenging year for me personally,” Kylington said (translated from Swedish). “These are things that have been going on in the family for many years but which escalated to get worse and there were mental and psychological problems I suffered from.
“I think I deal with the problem like maybe everyone else does, by just sweeping it under the rug and putting the lid on but for me it led to mental illness and I felt very bad about how I dealt with my problems and almost went into the wall and felt that now it’s enough,” Kylington continued. “I needed to face these problems we had as a family and today I am incredibly grateful for this journey I started and then had to finish.”
The Flames originally selected Kylington in the second round (No. 60 overall) of the 2015 NHL Draft. The left-handed defenceman has appeared in parts of five NHL seasons during his tenure with the Flames, collecting 47 points in 168 games.
Kylington told Sjöberg that he underwent multiple forms of treatment, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), during his year-long absence from hockey.
“I just want to play hockey, but when something else in life eats you up from the inside, I just felt that I couldn’t focus on the right things and I needed to go back and prioritize what needed to be fixed,” Kylington said. “I never understood how a process with a psychologist would behave, but it was also a journey in itself to understand and learn to put one’s feelings into words and learn to communicate things to strangers.
“But I quickly understood that it was not a sprint but a marathon and it was hard on many different levels. I missed hockey and felt a big question mark on many levels what the hell really happened … it was CBT and that turned into psychiatry.”
Kylington has one year remaining on his contract at a $2.5 million cap hit, and there’s a wide-open spot for him on the left side in Calgary.
When asked by Sjöberg about his current state with training camp less than six weeks away, Kylington gave a very positive answer.
“Fantastic, absolutely fantastic,” he said. “I feel great and it’s fun to get started and I’m really looking forward to a new season. I’ve only felt commitment from the management in Calgary and my teammates and that helps for sure. It will be fun to get back to my everyday life.
“I have missed it very much.”
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