More Joy Regina – Clint Malarchuk Interview

Local event sparks conversations about mental health. Ethan Butterfield

Mental health advocate and former NHLer to speak at event

More Joy Regina made its way back to the Conexus Arts Centre on Jan. 29. The event, which is based around mental health awareness, focuses on significant issues such as depression, anxiety,  and self-care. More Joy founder, Cristalee Froese, started her journey to joy through her novel of the same name. After the powerful responses that her book garnered, the More Joy Movement came about which, outlining a more dynamic way to life your best life. More Joy Regina brought in guest speakers to talk about their own mental health issues, helping to bridge the gap between attendees. The event is part of URSU’s Sexual Health Mentall Wellness week from Jan. 28-31.
The event featured not just guest speakers, but also activity centres and mental health resources. I was able to talk with former NHL player/coach and suicide survivor Clint Malarchuk before the event. Clint discussed his mental health, the event, his book, and his career.

Just for some perspective, you played for the Washington Capitals and the Buffalo Sabers, you did some coaching jobs as well. What was all that like for you?

Oh wel,l I mean it was my life. You know, it [was] what I did. As a player and then, gracefully, I got to go into coaching, directly from being a player, so I was pretty blessed in that way. You know, very grateful that I was able to find that route. Then I coached from the day I retired, which was around ‘94, ‘95, ‘til 2014. So, I was pretty fortunate.

Recently, you released a book and in the opening there’s a very powerful introduction which talks about and visualizes your struggle with suicide. Why that opening?

I would say, because it tells people how deep and dark I was, and struggling in silence. And it tells people that might read that first part and go “Oh my god, that is me.” So, mostly it’s for the people that are still struggling in that darkness, in silence.

What made you want to be a guest speaker at the More Joy Regina event?

[Laughter] Probably ‘cause of my history. They found me and I found them, and it worked. It was a good connection. I think my story resonates with that type of event. Not only that but my wife is going to be speaking with me as well. And, for the people that can’t relate to Clint Malarchuk, they might be able to relate to the spouse like, Joanie, my wife that went through all that. You know, ‘cause it doesn’t just affect the one person, it affects everybody.

Have you spoken at other public events or just More Joy Regina?

Oh no, this is something I do regularly. In fact, the day before we check in, I’m in Saskatoon.

Now, for those who don’t know, you had another incident where you almost died while playing for Buffalo. Would you be able to discuss that moment?

Well, we don’t know- well now we do, but back then we didn’t know what trauma could do to a person. And, we didn’t even have the words PTSD back then, and for me it was just getting back in there as quick as I could. You know, being brought up the way I was, on horses and what not, you get bucked off, you get right back in. You get right back on that horse. So, for me, that was my mentality. The only shame in that is, hard to say this but I had no counselling, none was offered, and I didn’t think of it either. So, it’s all fair, I’m not blaming, there’s no blame, but then when Richard Zednik cut his jugular in the same city, in Buffalo about 10 or 12 years ago now, they had counselling for him. Anybody who was directly involved in that incident. So, I’m really pleased that we’ve come that far with the mental illness side of things.

So, there was no hesitation from you, right back on the ice?

Well I thought it was the right thing to do, you know, the only right way to go. Like I said, you get bucked off the horse you get right back on it. That fear doesn’t set in, and as soon as my stitches came out, I was right back in there. As damaging as that might have been to me emotionally in a lot of ways, in a lot of ways it was my journey to get help. Get the right doctors, medication, therapy.

So, am I correct in assuming that, because of these issues, that’s why you go out to these events?

Oh, absolutely. My best gratification of anything, I do have to keep my balance with medication, working out, endorphin release, counselling. But yeah, to be a service, to tell my message to people, especially as a former athlete. You got that big Superman cape on us, you know, we’re supposed to be tough and everything. Then, for people to hear my story, it’s not about tough you are, it’s not a weakness, it’s a sickness and it can be cured.

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