Why former NHL goalie Clint Malarchuk wrote about his struggles with addiction and his mental health
Clint Malarchuk is a former NHL goaltender from Grande Prairie, Alta. He's probably best known for suffering one of the most horrific sports injuries in recent history. In 1989, during a game against the St. Louis Blues, an opponent's skate hit Malarchuk's neck, severing his jugular vein and nearly costing him his life.
His book The Crazy Game, co-written with sports writer Dan Robson, describes his struggle with PTSD following that incident, and with mental health and substance abuse challenges throughout his life — culminating in a suicide attempt.
The Crazy Game is on the Canada Reads 2019 longlist. The final five books and the panellists defending them will be revealed on Jan. 31, 2019. The 2019 debates will take place March 25-28, 2019 and will be hosted by Ali Hassan.
Clint: "When you wake up in a hospital out of a coma with a bullet in your head and you're a suicide survivor, you start to reflect on 'Why am I alive? What is my reason?' I almost died in '89 with the jugular vein and another time with some painkillers. You start to think about, 'Why have I gone through what I've gone through suffering with mental anguish and the problems that I've had to deal with in my life?' Once I got well, I started to think I'd like to help people and tell my story and say 'Hey, you know what, there is hope."
Dan: "It started as a magazine story that Clint and I worked together on. I had looked into Clint's story and reached out and thought there might be more he wanted to talk about. I flew out to Calgary and met with him and his wonderful wife, Joanie, and we sat down and they shared the story for the first time in a magazine piece. Clint was very open and honest in that and with the success of it Clint asked me if I'd like to collaborate with him on a book."
Clint: "I had an alcoholic father who was kind of abusive when he drank. He was the typical story that you hear about a great guy that when you just add alcohol, they become a monster. I had a lot of anxiety and OCD symptoms as a kid and I didn't feel normal. I was basically just struggling through all of those things and progressively getting worse. Dan did such a good job of making me sound like myself in print that when I decided to write the book I contacted Dan and said, 'Look, I'm going to push forward and get this book done and I need somebody like you.'"
Dan: "We all knew Clint's story in the hockey world from that moment when his jugular was cut on the ice, but his story began a long time before that. I think that it was important to build up to that and realize that a lot of the issues that Clint has bravely dealt with since that incident, and later on, actually started before the trauma triggered it."
Pain shared, pain lessened
Clint: "A week before the book came out, I was on the phone with Dan and I remember I broke down crying. I got very emotional because it was a long process; it was a tough process. I want readers to get a bit of understanding for people that struggle with mental illness. And for people that do struggle with it and have read the book, I want them to get help and see that it is not a weakness; it's an illness."
Dan: "I felt we needed to push to tell the difficult details. The process of having him open up and share it was hard on Clint. I hope that people who consider themselves super masculine or 'tough guys' or people who think they can stand up and take anything understand that it's okay to seek help when you just know that something's not quite right inside. You're not weak if you're dealing with something. It's important that you get help."
Clint Malarchuk and Dan Robson's comments have been edited for length and clarity.
Listen to Clint Malarchuk and Dan Robson on Quebec AM