Men's Hockey Head Coach Nate Leaman Voices Support For "Tom And The Lion"

Friar Head Coach Nate Leaman.

Sept. 13, 2012


Tom and the Lion

Men’s Hockey head coach Nate Leaman is supporting the play, “Tom and The Lion,” which will run at noon on Thursday, Sept. 27 at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence, R.I. It is a three-act play about two men who made hockey a way of life. “The Lion” is NHL Hall of Famer, Pat LaFontaine, while “Tom” is Tom Cavanagh, a Rhode Island native who excelled on the ice in high school, college and in the NHL. Despite their love for the game of hockey, both men exited their professional careers prematurely.

Cavanagh enjoyed great athletic and academic success throughout his life. After graduating from Toll Gate High School in Warwick, R.I., he attended Harvard University and, upon graduation in 2005, pursued a career as a professional hockey player. In 2008, Tom played in his first NHL hockey game and earned a point 37 seconds into the game (a San Jose Sharks record). As Tom approached his mid-twenties, he developed a severe mental illness. His condition worsened and intensified for three years before ultimately taking his own life in January, 2011. Tom’s brother, David, and cousin, John, each played with the Friar men’s hockey team from 2006-10.

“I am proud to help support the event and I hope the hockey community will recognize the significance and importance of the issues that will be discussed, and come out to show its support as well,” Leaman said.

One of the purposes of the play is to create awareness about the increasing number of athletes (scholastic, collegiate and professional) faced with the debilitating symptoms of mental illness. Additionally, the showing of the play will help provide funding to continue to create heightened awareness about these conditions and about  the availability of free psychiatric care to those in need at Providence’s Butler Hospital.



Located on Blackstone Boulevard in Providence, R.I, and founded in 1844, Butler Hospital is Rhode Island’s only private, nonprofit psychiatric and substance abuse hospital for adults, adolescents, children, and seniors. It is affiliated with The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

“Supporting initiatives and causes that could ultimately benefit the welfare of our student-athletes is something that I am excited to be a part of,” Leaman added.

The performance will be delivered in three acts and attendees will enjoy a three-course meal served with each corresponding act. The first act will focus on the life of Tom Cavangh. In the second act, Dr. Steven Rasmussen will explain the biology of the brain affected by Mental Illness and Traumatic Brain Injury.

The third act will incorporate the story of perennial NHL All-Star Pat LaFontaine. In 1998, after 15 years in the NHL, Pat retired prematurely as a result of a series of head traumas suffered throughout his career. After five concussions, Pat battled depression, headaches and memory loss.

"As athletes, we are taught to be tough; you get up and shake it off but you can't do that with depression,” LaFontaine said. “For me, the harder I tried, the worse it got."

With support and inspiration from family, friends and most of all, the kids in those hospitals, competing not for goals, but for life, Pat drew upon their courage and got through the most difficult time of his life. In 2003, it was announced that LaFontaine would be the first player inducted into both the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto and the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in Minnesota, in the same year.

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