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Coyotes' Goligoski lost love for hockey last year: 'I really got down'

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Arizona Coyotes defenseman Alex Goligoski said he lost his love for the game during the 2018-19 season.

"I'd say maybe mid-December," Goligoski told The Athletic's Craig Morgan. "Personally, I really got down and I wasn't having a ton of fun. It wasn't due to anything in particular. I can't even really explain it. There was nothing really causing it. I just didn't have that excitement that I normally have coming to the rink."

Goligoski isn't the first player to feel this way. Columbus Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson admitted to experiencing "burnout" in 2017-18 and Ryan O'Reilly said he "lost the love of the game multiple times" during the end of his tenure with the Buffalo Sabres.

More recently, Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien is reportedly mulling retirement because he isn't sure whether he wants to continue playing hockey.

"The feelings I had were exactly the same kind of stuff they were talking about," Goligoski said, referring to Atkinson and O'Reilly. "It probably is more common than we all think."

Goligoski managed to bounce back following the Coyotes' bye week in late January - a relatively new quirk to the NHL's schedule.

"I remember playing San Jose after the break in San Jose and those games are tough," he said. "A week off, then you travel and play. It's a tough spot for everyone.

"I just remember feeling so good going into that game and during the game I was having a blast. If there's one point, that'd probably be it. That's when I knew I had found that fire again and now it just seems easy because it's natural for me. I love competition and I love hockey. Looking back, I almost can't believe that I had a period where I felt like that. When I was in it though, it's almost like I didn't realize it until I had that feeling again, then it was so obvious."

Goligoski had averaged 40 points per 82 games during his career entering the 2018-19 season. However, he collected just 27 points in 76 contests last season, which was his lowest point total during a full year in his 11 NHL campaigns.

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