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Former semi-pro hockey player speaks out about mental health

Soul Sisters Memorial Foundation co-hosting Hometown Hockey Hero event Aug. 13
WES - G Bell 2
Gord Bell will be the featured speaker at the Aug. 13 Hometown Hockey Hero event being hosted by the Soul Sisters Memorial Foundation and Bellz Edge Hockey School.

WESTLOCK – During the past two years, many people have struggled with their mental health and Gordon Bell wants you to know you can find the courage to battle through it.

That’s because the 42-year-old former semi-pro hockey player from Westlock has done just that. He will be sharing his story and his struggles at the Hometown Hockey Hero event, hosted by the Soul Sisters Memorial Foundation and Bellz Edge Hockey School, Aug. 13, at Memorial Hall at 7:30 p.m.  

“I’ve been wanting to speak at one of the Soul Sister’s events for a while, but I never really had the courage to do it — there’s a lot of emotions that can come about when you speak about this stuff,” said Bell. “It’s near and dear to my heart. A lot of my family battles with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.”

Coming out of the recent pandemic, Bell saw a need to share his own personal story to let others know that the battle with mental health can be won.

“I hope that I can share my story and all my struggles with mental health and suicidal thoughts. If I can share then maybe some people can relate to it and maybe they can start talking and start the process of healing,” said Bell. ”Knowing they have to battle every day, it’s not something that just goes away — you’ve got to battle every single day, and once I figured that out, I certainly became more open to speak about it, talk about it and share it. What works for me might work for someone else.”

Bell has been a close friend to Soul Sisters Memorial Foundation president, Christine Vachon and her family for many years. He wanted to speak at an event by the Soul Sisters Memorial Foundation as a way of supporting the organization and the work they do. 

“Gordon Bell wants to tell his own story. For Gordon to want to come back to his hometown to do that, that was important to him,” said Vachon, noting the evening is helping raise awareness about suicide and mental health issues, as well is an opportunity to educate the public about the work that the foundation does.

Bell was born in High Level and moved to Barrhead in the early 1980s before moving to Westlock in 1991. He played semi-pro hockey for several years as part of the East Coast Hockey League with the Oklahoma City Blazers, Amarillo Gorillas and Tulsa Oilers between 2006 and 2013. He studied sports psychology at Grant McEwan College in Edmonton and St. Mary’s University in Halifax. He returned to play for the Westlock Warriors part-time over three seasons with his final season in 2017-18 where he helped win a championship.   

“Getting to play in front of a lot of family members and playing in a lot of rinks in 17 or 18 years. it was a really cool way to close out my playing career,” said Bell.       

Today he is a hockey coach in Dallas, Texas, for his eldest daughter’s hockey club.

Special guest that evening is entertainer Danny Zzzzz, whose real name is Daniel Paulin. He has made several television appearances including America’s Got Talent, and will also be sharing about his own struggles after losing his son to suicide last year.

“I just thought he was so humble and such an incredible talent. I got to know him a little bit … who he is as a person is a guy that I want everybody to see once,” said Bell, noting the strength and perseverance he has shown. “He’s over 50 now and he’s still pushing the envelope as far as personal growth. I’d like people to hear his story, what he’s gone through and what he’s had to deal with — how he’s got to get over it and the fact that he can still push forward.” 

The Hometown Hockey Hero event is open to people ages 16 and over. Tickets are only available online through Eventbrite.

Kristine Jean, TownandCountryToday.com