Former NHLer Clint Malarchuk shares his battle with mental illness

Mental illness was the topic of discussion at the Winkler and District Chamber of Commerce P.W. Enns Business Awards Gala. Former NHL goalie Clint Malarchuk and his wife Joanie delivered the event’s keynote presentation.

Clint is most well known for having his jugular vein slashed with a skate during a game on March 22, 1989…nearly killing him. He says it was after this accident that his mental state really went downhill, having developed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result.

“It was nineteen years later when I was diagnosed with PTSD and I look back and go ‘wow’…things did spiral after the injury and I didn’t know it because it was kind of a gradual deal over a couple of years.”

Malarchuk adds however he didn’t immediately realize the incident was the tipping point, adding he came back from the injury so quickly.

“I was a hero in Buffalo, a blue collar sports town. I epitomized everything that their athletes should be, I came back, I was a tough guy and no counselling was offered – I didn’t think of it either, back then you just got back as soon as you could.”

He goes on to say that he rode that wave of adrenaline, the city’s support, and says that other than the fatigue from the loss of blood he didn’t experience a lot of physical symptoms.

“But those things that did creep in and not knowing what trauma can do to a person, now we understand it, back then we didn’t.”

As for his wife Joanie, she says dealing with Clint’s gradual change in mental health was a challenging time for their family.

 Joanie adds that trying to get Clint help was even more difficult.

“It was always said to me ‘There’s nothing we can do, he’s an adult, unless he wants to come in,’ and of course they don’t want to get help at that point because they’re so sick.”

Eventually that day did come. On October 7, 2008 Clint attempted to end his life by shooting himself…but he lived.

“I got to a point where I was basically (dealing) with paranoia, I thought there was things going on around me that really weren’t. Severe anxiety followed by severe depression, I was self medicating, I was drinking and trying to kill the pain or numb my mind and obviously that didn’t help things either.”

At the time, Malarchuk was also on a lot of medication and says he and Joanie didn’t discover until later that they were the wrong meds for what he was dealing with. “They probably had something to do with that almost-fatal choice that I made.”

Eventually the Malarchuks wrote a book about their experiences. Clint talks about what motivated him to put pen to paper.

Meantime, Joanie encourages those affected by mental illness to have faith that it will get better, gather as much information as you can and to not take things personally.

“You get so involved in the day-to-day stuff that’s happening that’s not positive, that you start to think that you can fix it and that if only you did this differently. I think if you can just step aside from that and get information about it, try to look ahead and do the next thing.”

Their story of living through mental illness is chronicled in Clint’s memoir The Crazy Game: How I Survived in the Crease and Beyond.

Written by Candace Derksen / Chris Sumner |

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Dusty Fields

I like baseball, camping and being out on the lake in my boat. My dog Sparky loves it too! Make sure you follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest by clicking on the tabs.

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