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Former Irish hockey star Stephen Johns rollerblades across the country for Mental Miles

Johns is rollerblading across the country, from Pittsburgh to Portland, to help inspire those battling depression.
Published: Jun. 24, 2021 at 6:42 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - Former Irish hockey alternate captain Stephen Johns recently announced his retirement from the NHL.

He played four seasons in the NHL with the Dallas Stars, but had to walk away from the game to recover from headaches and post-concussion syndrome.

However, this summer, in a spur of the moment decision, his journey has now shifted from ice skates to rollerblades.

“I think that’s what I will miss most about the game of hockey is inspiring people,” Johns said. “So I decided to do this.”

Johns is on a mission.

“I am skating for all of the people who are struggling,” Johns said.

Johns is rollerblading across the country, from Pittsburgh to Portland, to help inspire those battling depression.

“Depression is a scary, crazy dangerous thing,” Johns said. “I was stuck in that rut for awhile, and now, I want to help other people get out of their ruts.”

Johns is logging what he calls “Mental Miles,” rollerblading approximately 40 miles per day, and he says it’s totally worth it.

“My feet are killing me,” Johns said. “My legs feel like they are going to fall off but I think it’s the most fun I ever think I had.”

The fun is resulting in tons of positive feedback.

“I’ve had thousands of messages of just people reaching out saying thank you or sharing their story with me,” Johns said. “I feel like I have already made an impact on a lot of peoples lives and we’re just getting started.”

Of course, Johns had to come back to the place it started for his hockey journey - South Bend.

“There’s no way I can roll by Notre Dame and not stop,” Johns said. “You don’t realize how much you miss this place until you come back.”

Johns was able to get current Irish hockey players to roll with him on campus, and it means the world.

“Hopefully it keeps building,” Johns said.

Johns hopes it builds awareness for all.

“We all have a story,” Johns said. “It doesn’t matter who anyone is or where they come from but they could be going through something you have no idea about and that’s kind of changed my mentality on everything, really.”

The new mentality starts with communicating everything at all times.

“When people ask me how I am feeling, I don’t just say, ‘good’ anymore,” Johns said. “I tell them the truth because why not? If they know I am struggling a little bit, maybe they’ll help out.”

Now, Johns is doing whatever he can to help out the country while also helping himself.

“I couldn’t be more excited to get back on the blades and get some more blisters,” Johns said. “I decided to change my life in one moment. So far, so good.”

The journey is not over yet for Johns. As of Thursday June 24, he is in South Dakota.

If you want to join in on the Mental Miles journey, be sure to tag Johns on social media. His twitter handle is @stjohns28. His Instagram handle is @s_johns28.

Johns is documenting his entire mission, and the plan is to release a documentary on his journey in November.

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