Montreal students get lesson on mental health from former NHL goalie Clint Malarchuk
Students at Kuper Academy learned lessons about life on Thursday, courtesy of a former NHL player who’s taken more than his share of hard knocks.
Clint Malarchuk, the retired backup goalie who played parts of 10 seasons for the Quebec Nordiques, Washington Capitols and Buffalo Sabres, spoke about his battles with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
He stressed to the students that there is no shame in seeking help when suffering from mental or emotional trauma and illness.
“The only way you can heal is by processing things, by talking and helping and loving one another,” he said.
Kuper Academy invited Malarchuk to speak because last year a student committed suicide.
"We had a tragedy at Kuper. One of the students took his own life," said Joan Salette, the headmaster of the school.
"We dealt with it last year but we really wanted to make the focus this year the focus of mental health and getting help."
On March 22, 1989, Malarchuk was in goal for the Buffalo Sabres when they played the St. Louis Blues.
During play, opposing player Steve Tuttle was dragged down and crashed into the crease. His skate came up and hit Malarchuk in the neck, severing the carotid artery.
Malarchuk was rushed from the ice, bleeding heavily. Only the quick action of the team trainer and doctors saved his life.
He would return to play several more seasons in the NHL but the memories of that day haunted him for years.
"It was in the next year that things started to build up. The depression, the panic attacks, not being able to sleep because of the flashbacks - boom I would see a skate coming up and it would wake me right up. So I went 10 days without sleeping at one point," said Malachuk.
He was eventually diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and began taking medication.
But after 15 years medication alone was not enough.
In 2008, Malarchuk shot himself in the head. While he survived, the bullet remains lodged in his forehead.
"I was shocked," said Malarchuk.
"There's probably some shame and embarrassment to go with that but I was really grateful that I was alive."
The assistant headmaster at Kuper, Eric Casarotto, said Malarchuk's lesson should resonate with everyone.
"Here's a guy, top of his class as a hockey player, but he had demons and these demons caused him great harm. But these demons are not something that is out of the ordinary," said Casarotto.
In 2014, he wrote a booked called “The Crazy Game: How I Survived in the Crease and Beyond,” in which he detailed his years in hockey and the tough times that followed.
“The book hasn’t just helped people, it impacted people,” he said. “The reason I’m telling you that is not to brag. I’m telling you this because if you struggle in any way, you are not alone.”