TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nick Paul has made several impact plays and scored some big goals in his short time in a Tampa Bay uniform.
When Paul scores, it’s also a win for youth mental health.
“Yeah, it affects everyone,” Paul said.
Raising awareness is his goal. He created a campaign called “Points By Paul.”
“It actually started when I was in North Bay, in the OHL,” he said.
It’s an important initiative with a personal connection.
“I had a friend when I was younger, I was grade 9, he was grade 10, lacrosse team,” Paul told ABC Action News sports anchor Kyle Burger. “One of my good buddies and he had taken his life, death by suicide. I showed up one day and he wasn’t there. Figured he was sick or whatever and another day goes by and the news comes out about what happened. It’s just something that touched me and stuck with me. If I ever get a voice and can have an impact somehow, that’s something I want to do.”
For each point Paul scores this season, he’ll donate $150 to the Royal Ottawa Foundation for youth mental health. The Ottawa Senators Foundation will match each of his donations.
“When I got traded, I told (Royal Ottawa) no matter how many points I get here I am still doing the same thing,” Paul said. “I’ll donate to the mental health and the Royal Hospital. When the season is done, I am going to write a check there, and with pledges. Hopefully, we can raise some money and make a difference.”
So far, Paul has tallied 38 points through 91 games between his time with Ottawa and Tampa Bay.
In this postseason, Paul’s first appearance in the Stanley Cup playoffs, he’s scored six points (two goals) in 11 games. The pair of goals came in Game 7 of the Lightning’s first-round series against the Maple Leafs.
While in Ottawa, Paul would often make school visits and various other appearances to speak to kids about mental health.
“I think before you weren’t seen as strong or tough if you were speaking about your feelings,” he said. “Now a lot of people are coming out and saying I’m not OK. And it’s OK for me to say that. When that happens usually you get a support system.”
Anyone can sign-up to pledge per point or make a donation. But the point for Paul is to get a conversation started.
“My journey to the NHL wasn’t an easy one, up and down. A lot of shortcomings and getting right back on the horse,” he said. “The biggest thing I did to better my career was to take care of my mental health. I felt I was keeping a lot of things inside, a lot of pressures, and putting pressure on myself, and my emotions. I started opening up and talking about myself and it helped me so much.”
The Lightning will play Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final on Wednesday against either Carolina or New York.