Former NHL player reveals his brush with suicide

A little over a year ago, Jamie Baker, a lunchpail NHL player for the Quebec Nordiques, Ottawa Senators, San Jose Sharks and Toronto Maple Leafs back in the day, had a few moments with his own thoughts during his current job as a TV analyst for the San Jose Sharks. That’s when he decided that he would kill himself, The Athletic (paywall) reports.

On the team flight back to California, he sent “goodbyes” in several emails; the recipients realized that a recent stay in a mental health facility was not working.

He cleaned out his garage, moving a treadmill that must have weighed a thousand pounds, to pull his car in for what would come next. He took some sleeping pills. The car keys were in his hand.

And then he thought of his daughters.

He thought of the call that Bridget and Reilly would each receive. It brought him to his knees. He crumpled on the garage floor, pounded the cement and wailed until he was overtaken by exhaustion.

Outwardly, Baker was the goofy, happy go lucky guy; perhaps you know one. He also would slip into his black hole, more so, it seemed, after suffering several concussions in the NHL.

He took a leave of absence from the team, he sought help. He’s still working with a therapist.

“He’s always taught me about the word perseverance and what it means. I’ve always grown up hearing about that word. The past year he’s shown me that,” one of his daughters tells The Athletic.

Superficially, he does not appear to be someone struggling with mental health, and that is perhaps what most people have found so shocking. When this is relayed to Baker in a recent conversation, his voice breaks. It is one of the few things that can crack his veneer — when people invariably say they had no idea. That they would never suspect he was struggling. Not him. Jamie Baker?

He remembers a local writer one day remarking on what it must be like to be Jamie Baker, who he assumed must have a charmed, idyllic life. Baker turned it into his own sardonic joke. Except it wasn’t so funny to him.

“The changes are so subtle you may not even realize it until you talk to somebody. But this is more than worth it,” Baker said. “I’m older now. I’m 52 years old and this is allowing me to have better connections with people. I have more peace of mind, I don’t have impulsivity. I’m not depressed. My mind is in a place where I can have so much more compassion for myself and other people; I can empathize. My kindness meter has gone way up, whether I’m at Starbucks or running into a stranger, talking to a fan or answering stuff on Twitter. This is more than worth it. You can see the goodness in people.”

The Athletic’s story came out yesterday morning. Last evening, Baker was back on TV in Winnipeg for the first time since its publication.

  • Justin McKinney

    Hats off to you, Jamie Baker, for bringing this issue to light and having the courage to talk about your experiences. As someone who’s struggled with mental illness and had suicide in my family, I can’t tell you how important it is to me personally every time I see a story like this. All I can hope is that we continue to have these discussions and continue to erase the stigma that surrounds mental illness.

    • X.A. Smith

      Also, hats off to Bob, for keeping the issue of mental health and suicide a regular topic on this blog for years. It’s so important.

  • kevins

    Best wishes to him. Thinking about the impact on others is one of the top reasons to inhibit suicide. Keep those daughters in mind.

  • stevemac213

    That took a lot of guts! Best to you Jamie.