Inspiring many along the way, Kylington finds gratitude through mental health journey

After missing nearly 20 months on the ice, Oliver Kylington’s vulnerability inspired many as a 2023-24 Masterton Trophy finalist.

Inspiring many along the way, Kylington finds gratitude through mental health journey

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Oliver Kylington hadn’t considered how his mental health journey might inspire others who are experiencing similar struggles.

In his native Sweden for the summer, strangers approached the 26-year-old to offer a quick word of encouragement or a heartfelt thank you.

The defenceman, who returned to the Calgary Flames this January after nearly 20 months away from hockey to dedicate time to his mental health, is grateful for those interactions.

“People are coming up to me and mentioning struggles they are going through,” Kylington told “It is a response I could never have thought of.

“In life, you want to do whatever you can to feel good and happy. But you also want to give back to others who aren’t in the same situation as you. Maybe they are going through a situation they feel they can’t talk about, or they can’t see the light at the end.

“We all have our difficulties in life there are different scales to that and everyone that walks on this earth goes through tough times.”

Kylington certainly knows that.

His story, well-documented over the past two years, is once again in the spotlight.

On May 2, the NHL announced that Kylington, along with goaltenders Connor Ingram of the Arizona Coyotes and Frederik Andersen of the Carolina Hurricanes, were the three finalists for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy which is awarded annually to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.

Initially taken aback by the acknowledgement, Kylington is humbled by the recognition.

“I feel very honoured. It is something that I never figured would happen to myself.

“It was a shock at first. When I started to understand it more and saw how people close to me were so happy, I realized it was a big honour. To be recognized with the other two players and to know all the people who have been nominated in the past is a privilege. I feel very blessed.”

His teammates and the Flames organization were quick to reach out to Kylington when the news of the nomination broke.

“So many people have reached out and sent their love to me,” said Kylington, who played 33 games in 2023-24.

“I am very appreciative of that.”

The second round pick by Calgary in the 2015 NHL Draft has been open about his mental health journey, before and after his return to the game.

It has served as an inspiration to many.

“I believe it is about being genuine to yourself. Hopefully, being you and true to yourself can help people who are in similar experiences or who have similar stories.

“I have realized that more and more since being back in Sweden, an environment I haven’t been in for so long.”

A place where Kylington is feeling right at home, perhaps more than he ever has.

“It’s been lovely seeing close friends and family. It’s nice to visit with my mom, spend time with her, and enjoy some home-cooked food as well.

“The small stuff, you appreciate it when you are gone for most of the year.”

On this day, like others, Kylington found himself in a conversation with someone he had never met.

He offered words of encouragement and expressed gratitude for the same.

“Creating that forum and that light to show people it is possible to be open and share your story is very important.

“I am very thankful and happy that is having an impact on different people. Being vulnerable tells people it is okay to feel that way and to share whatever is impacting you. It is important to know you won’t be judged.”

Over the next few months, Kylington will enjoy his days and weeks in Stockholm ahead of the 2024-25 NHL season.

He has a game plan in place.

“I want to spend time with people I cherish and prepare myself for another hockey season. I am looking forward to that.”

Whether he was talking about hockey, helping others, or both, Kylington shared an uplifting thought.

“There is a lot to be optimistic about. It is something I remind myself of every day.”