'That's when the gun went off': Ex-NHLer shares 'raw' story of suicide attempt
Former NHL goalie Clint Malarchuk struggled for years with depression and alcoholism, before reaching a breaking point on Oct. 7, 2008. On that day he attempted to take his own life by sticking a gun to his chin and pulling the trigger in front of his wife.
Malarchuk’s new memoir "The Crazy Game: How I Survived the Crease and Beyond” starts with what transpired that day.
His wife, Joanie, told CTV's Canada AM that she came home to find her husband sitting on a bench with a gun lying next to him on a table.
"He was just beside himself. He said 'I just can't live in my head anymore. I can't do this anymore; I just don't know what to do,'" she recalled, struggling to hold back tears.
"He said: 'This is what I want to do'… and I remember, he stood up and that's when the gun went off."
Malarchuk survived the incident, and the bullet remains lodged in his forehead.
He later enrolled in a six-month stint in a treatment centre to recover "emotionally, spiritually, and mentally" – a process he likened to an "exorcism of his demons." He said he’s emerged from the incident with a new sense of purpose.
Joanie also sought help at a recovery centre in California for family members of people suffering from addiction.
Most hockey fans remember Malarchuk for his astounding recovery after a 1989 freak accident on the rink that nearly cost him his life.
Malarchuk nearly died while tending goal for the Buffalo Sabres on March 22, 1989, when his jugular got sliced by a skate blade during a game against the St. Louis Blues. He survived and miraculously returned to the ice just 10 days later.
But the accident, which took place on live TV in front of millions of viewers, forever changed him and his outlook on the game.
It also prompted him to share the private struggles he's faced off the ice, battling depression, anxiety and alcoholism for years.
Malarchuk said that although it wasn't recognized at the time, he first started suffering from anxiety as a child, even requiring hospitalization when he was about 12.
"A lot of things that appeared on the outside just weren't going on in the inside – a lot of turmoil, a lot of anxiety," he said.
He said he found refuge from his anxiety in hockey, feeling most at peace leading up to and during a game. But within hours of a game wrapping up, he would soon feel his anxiety creeping up again.
'It's my claim to fame'
In his memoir, Malarchuk says he struggled deeply with depression and alcoholism after he realized that he would likely forever be associated with the 1989 accident that nearly killed him.
"My career has come to be defined by the accident. It's my claim to fame," he says in the book. "I had a decent run in the NHL, but I wasn't a Hall of Famer. Still, the fact is that I'm probably remembered better than a lot of goalies with similar stats."
It would be years before doctors eventually diagnosed him with obsessive compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Malarchuk said that as he struggled with his illness, he would lash out at his wife, being physically and verbally abusive to her. Yet, despite it all, Joanie said she couldn't bring herself to leave him.
"You could just really tell that this was not who he was choosing to be, so how could I leave him? He's my best friend," she said.
The couple recognize that their story is very "raw" and very honest, but hope that it can help others who may also be struggling with mental health problems.
"We didn't sugar-coat things," Malarchuk said. "We did it to help people, and give them maybe inspiration and hope."