We all know the man. Clint Malarchuk is remembered most for the horrific incident in a March 1989 between his Buffalo Sabres and the visiting St. Louis Blues, when the goalie’s throat was slashed by the skate of an opponent. He severed his jugular vein and almost died on the ice with his mother watching the game. That’s what pushed him to get off the ice.
He made it alive, but didn’t get any counselling. He underwent surgery and was back 10 days after the frightening incident. He thought he was invincible. But in his latest testimony from his book and a text in French by Diane Sauve of Radio-Canada, Malarchuk explains how he always knew he would suffer from mental illness. He came to realize it was here when he was haunted by nightmares of the incident during his career.
“I’d sit straight up in a chair so I wouldn’t go into a deep sleep,” he said, “so I wouldn’t visualise in a dream the flashback of that skate coming up and cutting my jugular vein.”
Despite meeting with a professional and finally getting help, the goalie had issues accepting his diseases, obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety. To fix his problems, Malarchuk started drinking heavily. He wouldn’t sleep. One night, he popped too many pills and drank. His heart stopped and he was rushed to the hospital.
Once again, he survived, like he had back in 1989.
Then Richard Zednik suffered a similar neck injury when he was a member of the Florida Panthers in 2008. Another trigger for Malarchuk. He was drinking heavily, and his relationship with his wife Joanie began to break down. The anxiety he was experiencing led him to constantly question their relationship and one day, it got way out of hand.
One afternoon, Joanie came home to find her husband sitting out back behind the horses’ barn. He had been drinking and was holding a .22 caliber rifle. He had been shooting at targets and rabbits.
“He just kept talking about how he couldn’t turn his head off,” Joanie remembers.
As their discussion became heated, Malarchuk picked up the gun and placed it under his chin.
“This is what I wish would happen,” he said, and pulled the trigger.
He didn’t think there was a bullet left in the gun… It went straight in his brain.
“Did I wanna die? No, no I didn’t,” Malarchuk said.
Malarchuk went to rehab after the suicide attempt, where he was diagnosed with PTSD from the accident in 1989. It took him some time to accept it, but now he and Joanie are mental health advocates, urging others to seek help for their problems.
Malarchuk still sees a counsellor weekly and openly talks about his issues. He relapsed after the writing of his book The Crazy Game: How I Survived in the Crease and Beyond in 2014. Too many hard memories.
He is back on track and knows he wasn’t meant to die the three times where he almost did.
He is meant to help others.