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Avs D Girard entering Player Assistance Program

Samuel Girard Colorado Avalanche Samuel Girard - Getty Images

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Colorado Avalanche defenseman Samuel Girard says anxiety and depression leading to alcohol abuse led him to seek treatment from the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program.

The league and union on Friday announced Girard would be away from the team indefinitely to receive treatment from the joint program.

Girard, 25, had been away from the Avalanche for personal reasons and did not play in their past two games. News of him entering the program came before Colorado visited the Minnesota Wild.

He will continue to be paid while getting treatment and can return to the team when cleared for on-ice competition by program administrators.

“I have made a proactive decision to take care of my mental health, and will be entering treatment for severe anxiety and depression that has gone untreated for too long and led to alcohol abuse," Girard said in a statement posted by his agency, CAA. “I want to express my gratitude to my wife, family, friends, the club, my teammates and the fans for their patience, understanding, and continued support.”

The Avalanche played their first game without him on Friday, defeating the Wild 3-2.

“We completely support what he’s going through and his decision to go into the program and get help,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “You’ve got to take care of yourself first before you’re able to come and help a team. We miss him and we’re really excited to get him back at some point.”

His father, Tony, said in a social media post earlier in the day that Girard was in good hands and asked others to respect his son's privacy.

“Just to reassure everyone, we can however tell you that we are staying in touch with him and your get well soon messages are touching him immensely,” Tony Girard posted. “Our man is a fighter, a great fighter and will always honor our region and all of Quebec. Hockey is still his big passion!"

Girard, a native of Roberval, Quebec, is in his seventh full NHL season. He broke his sternum midway through Colorado’s Stanley Cup run in 2022.