Former Sabres goaltender Clint Malarchuk is reconnecting with a sports audience in an effort to help those fighting with mental health issues — just like him.
Malarchuk shared his story of suicide attempts, depression and injury, already shared in his vivid autobiography in 2014. The first-person article for the Players' Tribune is titled "Bleeding Out," a reference to the 1989 night when he took a skate blade to his jugular vein in Memorial Auditorium and nearly died on the ice.
Here are excerpts from the article:
"How I ended up as a 47-year-old man with a bullet in his head and bag full of prescription medications may go all the way back to my early childhood for all I know, but it definitely has a lot of its roots in what happened on the night of March 22, 1989.
"I was the starting goalie for the Sabres at the time, and we were playing against the Blues at the old Aud in Buffalo. At first it was just like any other game. We were up 1–0 in the opening period, and I wasn’t seeing a ton of action in goal. Then the puck goes down into the corner to my right, and their guy gets to it immediately. I take a look over my shoulder and I can see one of their forwards rushing the net on the opposite side. Steve Tuttle. He’s a little ahead of our defenseman, so I know a pass is coming that way. I also know that I have to push hard off my post and get across to the other post as quickly as I can. Almost as soon as I get over there, though, Steve gets knocked over … and that’s when I see his skate come up.
"I felt it hit my mask, but there was no pain, and I didn’t think much of it in that moment.
"Then I saw the blood.
"When you watch the video, it’s hard to really make out, but those first few squirts from my neck? We’re talking five or six feet in distance. That’s how far the blood flew.
"I knew it was bad at that point.
"But there was still no pain. And I was definitely expecting it to come, believe me, because within seconds the blood was just gurgling out of me.
"So this is it, Clint. You are going to die. Tonight. Right here. In Buffalo.
"That’s what I was thinking as I watched the blood splatter and stain that goalie crease.
"But the weird thing was, as I’m thinking that, my main focus wasn’t on saving my life. Here are the two things that were on my mind ...
"First, I thought about something I’d been told going all the way back to peewee league: If you get hurt, don’t lay there on the ice like a weakling. Get up and go. Get yourself off that ice. Show that you’re tough.
"So that was the first thing. I didn’t want to die on the ice, out there in front of all those people.
"But the other thing I thought about was my mom watching the game back home in Calgary on the satellite dish.
"I didn’t want my mum to see me die on TV."
"When Richard Zednik had his throat slashed by a skate during a regular season game up in Buffalo in 2008 — same city, a full 19 years after my accident — I didn’t think it would have much of an impact on me.
"Boy was I ever wrong.
"By that time, I’d been dealing with my mental health issues for several years. There had been good days and bad days … and some really bad days, but I was surviving. And doing the best that I could. I’d even done some work I was very proud of as an NHL goalie coach.
"But I had come to rely on medication to get me through, and by that point the pills I was taking weren’t working like they had in the past.
"So Zednik happens, and immediately I’m getting bombarded with interview requests and reliving my accident all over again, and….
"It didn’t go well for me.
"All of a sudden I’m being asked to watch Richard’s injury again and again, and then my own. The whole time, I thought I was O.K., but it affected me on the inside, you know?
"Something got triggered for me after that Zednik injury.
"I started drinking heavily again. And self-medicating.
"Before long, I found myself being checked into hospitals and mental health facilities. Not ever staying long enough to get any help or get my feet under me."
"These days I speak to groups all over the country about mental health issues. I tell them that there is no shame in needing help, or in asking for that help in whatever way you are able. I get emails and Facebook messages every day from people who have heard me speak, or have read my book, and when I’m speaking about these issues or responding to those messages, I feel like I’m on top of the world. Just knowing that I might be able to help someone in their journey through life is enough to make me so happy.
"I still struggle with mental health issues; I fully admit that. I sometimes even still get those nightmares where I see Steve Tuttle’s skate come up in super slow motion and slash my throat. (My last one was about six months ago, if you’re wondering.) And when I’m not out speaking to groups, or things just kind of slow down, I can get sad. But it’s not the deep, deep depression like what I used to experience. And, in fact, maybe I’m just a normal person who struggles with a down day, or with distractions, or the everyday upsetting things in life. You know, like the sun sets at 4:45 or something in the middle of winter, and then I kind of get a bit depressed ….
"Just like everybody else in the world."