Clint Malarchuk

Clint Malarchuk has had to overcome some serious tragedies in his life - one of the scariest occurred in the Blue and Gold.

Malarchuk started his career with the Quebec Nordiques, where he was a highly thought of prospect. A graduate of the WHL Portland Winter Hawks, Malarchuk paid his dues with the Nordiques farm team the Fredericton Express in the AHL for 4 seasons before finally making it to the NHL full time. He became the number one goalie in Quebec City. In two seasons with the Nords he impressed the NHL enough to be named as Grant Fuhr's backup in Rendez-Vous '87 as the NHL All Stars competed in a 2 game series against the Soviet Red Army team.

The Nordiques were in a transitional phase in 1989 and made a big trade involving their goaltender. Malarchuk was then moved to Washington with Dale Hunter for Gaetan Duchesne, Alan Haworth and a 1st round pick (who turned out to be Joe Sakic). The deal is one of the most famous deals in hockey, and is often considered to be the downward turning point of the fate of the Quebec Nordiques.

In two seasons in the nation's capital Malarchuk had his ups and downs. While he shared the league lead in shutouts in 1987-88, he lost his starting goalies job by the end of 1988-89. The scrappy goalie was trade to Buffalo with Grant Ledyard and a draft pick (Brian Holzinger) for Calle Johansson and a draft choice (which turned out to be goaltender Byron Dafoe).

Malarchuk enjoyed three very solid seasons in Buffalo. He played primarily a mentor and backup role to a young Darren Puppa.

Unfortunately Malarchuk is best remembered for one of the most horrific injuries in all of hockey. Tragedy first struck on March 22, 1989 when his jugular vein was cut by a skate. A goal mouth collision involving St. Louis Blues winger Steve Tuttle and Buffalo defenseman Uwe Krupp saw Tuttle's skate slice Malarchuk's neck. Malarchuk clutched at his bloody neck as doctors were rushed on to the ice to save his life. As it turned out he spent only one night in the hospital and competed in the NHL only a couple of weeks later. But it could have been so much worse - perhaps even fatal.

Despite his solid play Malarchuk found himself out of the NHL by 1992. One of the major reasons for his disappearance was his battle with some personal demons. The Grande Prairie Alberta native was diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. His life became consumed with supposedly trivial worries which wouldn't allow him to function normally, never mind play hockey effectively. After much work with top doctors, proper medication was found and he is now over that battle too.

Malarchuk continued his career in the minors, first with the San Diego Gulls and then with the Las Vegas Thunder, where he established himself as one of the top goalies outside of the NHL. He overcame a drinking problem to become one of the most popular figures on the minor league scene. He would later turn to coaching at that level.

Malarchuk overcame his demons and tragedies and became a better person because of it.

"There's a purpose to everything that happens in our lives. That's why it's important to always have the attitude that you can get through a problem, because it's presented to you for a reason. You just have to find out what the reason is by conquering the problem. If you go through adversity and win, you become a stronger, wiser person for it. After everything that I've been through, my attitude basically now is that there isn't a situation I can't handle."

In 2003 Malarchuk became a part time goaltender consultant for the Florida Panthers, a post he now does for the Columbus Blue Jackets. But interestingly he held a side job as well. He became a horse dentist and chiropractor.

"The hard part is trying to schedule horse clients when I'm not travelling too much in the winter," Malarchuk told the Miami Herald. "It's kind of tough. You go two weeks in Florida then you come home and drive around all the different states out West."

The Alberta born Malarchuk has always been interested in rodeo events since he was a kid. When he was coaching the Idaho Steelheads of the West Coast Hockey League, he got his papers as a horse dentist and chiropractor from the Academy of Equine Dentistry in Idaho.

"I thought, well, shoot, that was interesting," he explains. "I can do that, have something to fall back on. At the time, I still was coaching hockey, and you know the job security in coaching isn't always the greatest."


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