Spencer Knight broke his silence on why he left the Florida Panthers in February to enter the NHL/NHLPA Players’ Assistance program.
Speaking with the Hockey News’ Ken Campbell, Knight said he had been dealing with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) which had kept him from playing at a high level.
As reported by FHN when Knight entered the program, his entrance into the assistance program was not drug or alcohol related.
“I was spiraling in a direction I didn’t want to be going,” Knight told Campbell.
Knight said that his symptoms started while at Boston College when started making multiple trips to the restroom to wash his hands. He said he spoke to his parents and thought he may need to talk to someone about it.
In 2021, Knight left BC to sign with the Panthers and he made his NHL debut at the end of that season. He also surprisingly made a start in Game 5 of the first-round of the playoffs, getting a win against the Lightning to push the series back to Tampa where it ultimately ended.
During the 2021-22 season, Knight split time in net with Sergei Bobrovsky but last season was where he says his OCD started to really affect him.
Knight had appeared to take the starting role for the Panthers in December, but after giving up three goals in Winnipeg, he was pulled by coach Paul Maurice and replaced by Bobrovsky.
Maurice said it was just to give Knight some rest — “Spencer has had a good run but it was not happening for him tonight. He has been good for us … He played enough for us’’ Maurice said at the time — and it was expected that Knight would resume.
Only Knight got sick on that road trip (as did numerous members of the Panthers) and Bobrovsky was able to steady his play and took over again.
Florida made the decision to send Knight to AHL Charlotte in February to get some more playing time, only Knight entered the assistance program and did not return to the Panthers.
Knight, 22, appealed to the NHL to participate in Florida’s development camp in July despite having too much experience to do so.
“I think it is important for the sake that this is a great opportunity to play hockey,’’ Knight said. “Any opportunity to play hockey is a great opportunity. It’s also good for my game. I’m just coming in to work hard and there are things I am working on whether it’s positioning or skating.
“You can’t replicate that in an environment where there isn’t any structure or intensity. This is one step and then it’s going to games although nothing compares to games. It’s nice to get back in the swing of things.”
As for missing out on his team’s run to the Stanley Cup Final, Knight said “one of the feelings you get when something like this happens is that you just let everyone down. I never wanted to feel like a burden.”
Knight is now out of the program and will be participating in training camp which starts on Thursday morning.
Where he stands with the team will be decided in the coming weeks. Florida has Bobrovsky as the assumed starter but also signed free agent Anthony Stolarz from Anaheim.
Knight, whose new $4.5 million contract kicks in this season, could start the season in Charlotte to get his game back in shape. He seemed OK with that possibility in July.
“We can speculate on how things might go, but one thing I have learned is that I have to be cool with whatever happens,” Knight said.
“If you are here, great; If you are there, great. If that happens, great. That’s the approach I have to have. I know the skill I have and I don’t doubt that. The skill combined with physical capability, I think I have tremendous skill and can be one of the best goalies in this league.
“I’m still 22. The mentality of embracing the uncertainty and embrace that we don’t know what’s going to happen next. Do you think Florida thought it would be in the Stanley Cup Final in January? But they were, right? Who knows what’s going to happen but I am cool with that. I am going to be a better goalie and a better person from that.”
2023 Southeast Rookie Showcase
At Hertz Arena, Estero
Friday: Tampa Bay Lightning 5, Nashville Predators 2; Carolina Hurricanes 4, Florida Panthers 1
Saturday: Tampa Bay Lightning 3, Carolina Hurricanes 3 (TB SO); Florida Panthers 4, Nashville Predators 2
Today: Practice day
Monday: Nashville Predators vs. Carolina Hurricanes, 10 a.m.; Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Florida Panthers, 1 p.m.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
- Now: Free agency is open
- Monday: Rookie Showcase, Estero
- Thursday: Training Camp, Sunrise/Coral Springs
- Sept. 25: Preseason starts; Doubleheader v. Nashville @ Sunrise
- Oct. 7: Preseason ends; v. Tampa Bay Lightning @ Sunrise
- Oct. 12: Start of 2023-24 Regular Season at Minnesota Wild (Bally Sports Florida)
- Oct. 19: 2023-24 Home Opener vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (BSF)