This is the latest installment of “Mind Always Matters” on WGN News Now, where we focus on teams & athletes that are making mental health and wellness a priority.

ROSEMONT – The beginning of 2023 brought the chance for the Chicago Wolves to start something new, and the idea went straight to the heads and their sweaters.

A tradition for the team is a specialty jersey in the month of January, and Courtney Mahoney and others thought of a way to continue that in an impactful way.

“While mental health is certainly being talked about, we just thought we could really escalate it,” said the Wolves’ director of operations. “Especially as a sports organization, really take a whole month and dedicate it not only to fundraising but also raising awareness with our players and spending each day doing a little something to raise awareness.”

That’s where “Mental Health Awareness” month was born as the franchise dedicated a number of efforts during at games at Allstate Arena and on social media to call attention to the topic.

On the team’s Twitter account, a number of pictures and videos featuring the AHL team’s players have been posted in an effort to encourage people to be proactive with their mental health. At the same time, the Wolves have become the third AHL team to join the NHL’s “Hockey Talks” initiative started in 2011 in honor of late Canucks player Rick Rypien.

“They’ve been amazing,” said Mahoney when talking about the player’s response to the “Mental Health Awareness” initiative. “A way for them to give back to the community. Some of them were very outspoken about it and feel very comfortable saying ‘These are my struggles and you’ve got to take time for your mind. It’s just as important as what I do for my body.’

“They’ve been wonderful. They’ve embraced just the cause and I think it’s something, especially in hockey with ‘Hockey Talks,’ that’s it’s very prevalent in the NHL and AHL, talking about it. I think the opportunity for them to just raise awareness and talk about it a little bit more, they were happy to do so.”

Forward Mackenzie MacEachern is one of those players who has embraced the “Mental Health Awareness” month for the team, enjoying the opportunity to spread the word this January.

“I think people kinda see us as these athletes and we’re having a great time playing the sport we grew up loving but I think we are just like everyone else, we have problems, too, whether it’s in our sport or outside the sport,” said MacEachern. “So I think it’s imperative people understand that we have those problems, too.”

At the same time, the Wolves have held a number of fundraisers, from “mystery puck” sales to t-shirts in hopes of raising money for organizations that are mental-health focused. Their biggest is for the team’s alternate jerseys which will be raffled off following this weekend’s home games at Allstate Arena against Rockford Saturday (7 p.m.) and Sunday against Grand Rapids (3 p.m.).

They include Erika’s Lighthouse, Alliance of Hope, and Paws for Patrick along with the Wolves’ own charity.

As the players have embraced the initiative, Mahoney is pleased with how the supporters of the franchise in the stands have done what they can to help.

“Our fan support for these endeavors has been amazing,” said Mahoney. “The support we get from them and embracing the causes and being vocal and vulnerable and talking about it and supporting it, dollar-wise.

“Each and every cause they’ve gotten on board. I know without them, we wouldn’t have the success we’ve had.”

Larry Hawley has more on the effort in this edition of “Mind Always Matters” in the video above.