“”Clint Malarchuk has played the incident over a million times in his mind, consciously and unconsciously. He has talked about it a million times, to therapists, to publishers and to the many crowds that come to see him talk these days.”

By ADRIAN DATER

@adater

 

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CLINT MALARCHUK NOW CAN ENJOY THE SUNSET VIEW AT HIS RANCH . . . Photo from ESPN’s 30 For 30 “”Cutthroat”

Clint Malarchuk sure as hell knows what’s on the video, because he lived it. He’s still got the totally visible scar on the right side of his neck from the March 22, 1989 night in Buffalo when his carotid artery was sliced open by a skate blade and his own blood turned the ice from white to dark red in a matter of seconds.
It’s forever there on YouTube and has been a staple of any “Bad Shit that Ever Happened to a Player in a Game” video reel since it happened.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWb50THT4Ic
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Malarchuk has played the incident over a million times in his mind, consciously and unconsciously. He has talked about it a million times, to therapists, to publishers and to the many crowds that come to see him talk these days.
And yet, on a recent Saturday afternoon in Denver, as part of a symposium on men’s mental health, Malarchuk nervously paced in a hallway adjacent to a room where video of the gruesome incident played to a large room of people. Nearly 28 years later, Malarchuk can talk a lot about the night he nearly died on the ice at the old Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, but he still can’t watch the video of it.
Malarchuk is doing well otherwise, a man who found happiness with his wonderful, fourth wife, Joanie, a man who once was so full of jealous rage and ficticious, demonic thoughts of her stepping out with a former bodybuilder boyfriend that he stormed into a gym, picked out the two biggest, most juiced-up looking guys he could find and started a brawl with them right there and then.
Malarchuk, who played in the NHL for the Sabres, Quebec Nordiques and Washington Capitals from 1981-92, is doing very well now for a man who, on Oct. 7, 2008, put a shotgun to his chin and fired a .22-caliber bullet into his head in a suicide attempt on his Nevada ranch.
A voice in his head that day told him to “Do it”, and he did, in what was supposed to have been one last act of spite against Joanie and the rest of the world, to silence the cacophony of a tire fire that had been raging in his head like a five-alarm fire for years.
By some act of providence, the bullet didn’t kill him, like it does for, statistics show, 99-percent of the rest of the population that attempts suicide by a long-barrelled firearm. After years of failed therapy, which he viewed as nothing but talk for sissies, not for any tough Canadian prairie boy hockey player like himself, Malarchuk today is easily brought to tears in talking about the breakthrough that finally, miraculously, happened in a San Francisco therapist’s office in late 2008 and into 2009.
clint3“I learned I was sick, but not weak,” Malarchuk says. “I thought I has to always be tough, that hockey players don’t cry. that men don’t cry. Well guess what? They do, and it’s OK.”
Malarchuk learned that he had post-traumatic stress disorder, mostly from the skate-blade accident from the St. Louis Blues’ Steve Tuttle but also from a childhood in which his father was locked up for domestic disturbance and other problems from alcoholism.
He was institutionalized briefly as a 12-year-old, but doctors couldn’t really find out what the root of his problems were. Just a nervous, anxious kid, they told his mother. He’ll grow out of it.
And for a while, Malarchuk did grow out of it. He achieved his dream of being an NHL goalie, even making the NHL All-Star Game as a young player.
But he still battled constant worry that it was all a mirage. He worried that no woman could love him for who he was and not what he did, and the marriages and the relationships fell like dominoes.
After the skate-blade accident, in which he lost 1.5 liters of blood and needed 300 stitches, Malarchuk rushed back to active duty, because that’s what tough kids from the prairie were supposed to do.
But his normal life of worry, once manageable, blew up into a million new fragmentations. He began having regular nightmares of the accident, and developed other obsessive-compulsive thoughts about everything from imaginary grim reapers, with their shiny blades shaped like Tuttle’s skate, to phobias about unlocked doors and faucets that wouldn’t shut off.
He finished out his career and forged a new career as a goalie coach with several NHL teams, but the drinking got worse and the paranoid delusions got worse.
Despite a new marriage to Joanie, Malarchuk couldn’t be the contented, stay-at-home husband. He preferred nights alone with a bottle, or at the end of the bar in some lonely juke joint. When Joanie made noises about leaving him, Malarchuk decided that was it and pulled the trigger right in front of her in the back of the ranch, in a tack shed.
“Look what you made me do,” Malarchuk said to her. They were supposed to be his final words. But he survived that too. A bullet fragment remains, right between his eyes, but you’d never know by looking at him.
clintTo look at Malarchuk and Joanie on the recent day in Denver was to be amazed. Clear-headed and sober now, with a purpose, Malarchuk travels around North America, usually with her by his side, telling his story.
A spellbound audience, many in tears, applauded when it was over. When he called Joanie up to the front, toward the end of his talk, he himself broke down, as he said he always does.
His advice to any person, male or female, young or old, is to admit that it’s OK to say you’re having problems, to let someone know. Men especially, he says, have trouble doing that and he knows all about it.
“I see it all the time in men. I see old versions of myself everywhere,” he says. “I want to help those guys. That’s my purpose in life now. I believe it’s truly why I’m still here, to help as many people as I can. I want to do so much more, But I know I’ve helped some people out there already, and even if it’s just one, that’s worth it.”
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  (Adrian Dateadrian.dater.565x300r is one of North America’s premier hockey writers. The Barre, Vt., native grew partially in a Vermont commune. As a child living in a teepee, Adrian became, and remains, a Boston sports addict, although “”I realized several years ago I was one of those Boston transplant asses always pining for the good ol’ days.  Now I consider myself a Coloradan.” Dater has covered sports — particularly hockey, the Colorado Avalanche, the National Hockey League and the Stanley Cup Finals —  for 28 years for the Concord Monitor, The Denver Post, SI.com, The Hockey News, The Sporting News and, currently, Bleacher Report and woodypaige.com.)