After spending three seasons with the Sabres, Robin Lehner made his return to Buffalo as the goalie in net for the Islanders on Sunday. It was his first game played in Buffalo since exiting midway through a March 29 game from when he was with the Sabres last season, which he later revealed was due to hitting a low point in his battle with bipolar disorder, depression and an alcohol dependency.

Lehner revealed that he had entered into rehab, and he made enough progress to return to the ice on a contract with the Islanders. In his first game back in front of the crowd at Buffalo’s KeyBank Center, he described experiencing some awkwardness.

It’s understandable that Lehner felt some reticence, but he still turned in a superb 39-save performance on 40 shots in the 3-1 victory. In the grand scheme of things, a game is only a game, but this one must’ve been a personal win for Lehner.

He’s playing this season in a custom mask designed by Dave Art that nods to his battle with mental illness, with details that illustrate his demons as well as the fresh start that he was able to find for himself.



Robin Lehner knew what he wanted on his new New York Islanders mask. It was truly special for me to paint this for my friend Robin🙏🏻. He wanted to tell the story about his reality. He wanted the mask to be named My Reality. Robin and I have been working together since Robin was a kid💪🏻. Robin wanted the mask to tell the story about the hell he has been through. You can read his brave story at The Athletic, about mental illness, bipolar diagnosis, suicide thoughts, anxiety, addiction, panic attacks. Now Robin´s new life starts for him and his family and he wanted the mask to testify of his new life☀️. The top of the mask describes how Robin´s reality has been for years... The most important part of mask is the sides, there is the sun at dawn☀️, describing the start of the new life for Robin when he decided to seek help for himself and his family and also follow Jesus and get baptised🙏🏻. It is so brave by Robin to tell his story to help other people. I am so impressed by you Robin. You also made me stronger with your story. This painting was extra emotional for me to create because since I was a kid I also have been fighting anxiety, panic attacks, OCD… And just as Robin I have seeked for help and found strength in my family and God🙏🏻 @robinlehner40 @ny_islanders @nhl @daveart

A post shared by David Gunnarsson (@daveart) on

h/t Twitter/AGrossNewsday