Coming Back Strong

A Matter of Inches cover (1)Clint Malarchuk was out on his ranch in Nevada drinking and shooting at cans on a fence. The same thoughts cycled on repeat in his head with no mute button–no escape. Then, at the climax of a building fugue, he put the barrel of his gun up under his chin and pulled the trigger, putting a bullet in his head that remains there to this day.

So begins Mr. Malarchuk’s new book, A Matter of Inches, which he will soon be in town to promote from December 11th to December 13th. It’s a memoir; though, if his story were a novel, it might be ridiculed for being too far-fetched.


The injury was so severe and unexpected, it shocked players that were on the ice. – Photo via

The former Buffalo Sabres goaltender and self-described cowboy has accumulated far more than his share of scars during his lifetime. Some of them are real while others are metaphorical. Some physical; others mental.

The most apparent of those scars runs across his neck, and its the one with which hockey fans above a certain age are most familiar. The incident — in Buffalo’s now-expunged Memorial Auditorium — happened quickly. There was a bump, a fall, and a skate edge, which came up in the air, slicing across his jugular. Then there was blood–lots of it.

Only through quick action by trainers and medical staff was he able to survive. He did more than that. In fact, he bounced back quickly with the kind of determination and stubbornness he had exhibited throughout his life. But the hasty comeback would come with a price, a psychological toll that comes from unattended mental trauma, a dark force that would only build up over time.

Last year, Clint’s story was featured on the ESPN short documentary series 30 for 30, which chronicled his mental struggles and two out of three of his near-death experiences. It soon caught the attention of comedian and podcaster Paul Gilmartin, who, in addition to being an avid hockey fan, has become an advocate for increased awareness of mental illness. Since 2011, his podcast, The Mental Illness Happy Hour, has played host to celebrities, quasi-celebrities, mental health experts, and otherwise everyday folks with harrowing stories of abuse, trauma and psychological disorders.

The Zednik injury in Buffalo, brought back a whole new wave of fear!  - Photo via

The Zednik injury in Buffalo, brought back a whole new wave of fear! – Photo via

It was fortuitous then when The Rendezvous With Madness Film Festival agreed to fly Paul from  Los Angeles to Toronto to interview Clint at its symposium on mental illness in sports. The full interview can be heard here or at the iTunes store. In it, Mr. Malarchuk mentions a second throat-cutting incident, which occurred 19 years later in 2008 at the First Niagara Center. This time it didn’t involve him, rather it was Florida Panthers forward Richard Zednik in a freakishly similar — if slightly less grave — circumstance. Still, the event would end up stirring a sleeping demon, triggering Clint’s relapse into alcohol abuse and depression.

“Ironically… my accident happened in Buffalo, and his accident happened in Buffalo. So don’t go to Buffalo,” he advises jokingly. “It’s a cutthroat town.”

Despite his revelations, he’s a surprisingly upbeat guy. After the interview — having the chance to meet briefly in person — I tell him with a smile: “Now, don’t go discouraging people from visiting Buffalo.”

“I love Buffalo,” he replies without deliberation.

After getting a chance to read his book, I am reassured of his sincerity. He was arguably at the peak of his career here, where he forged some enduring friendships and happy memories. And to Sabres fans he became a hero. Still, there was much more tale to be told, and the real heroics were yet to come–the acts of courage that involved seeking treatment and speaking out.

The cut left a scar 10+ inches long, but the mental scars were the lasting ones! - Photo via

The cut left a scar 10+ inches long, but the mental scars were the lasting ones! – Photo via

There are certainly some unflattering aspects to his story: his insecurities, battles with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and bouts of belligerence to name a few. It is precisely because of its honesty, though, that it is so powerful. Clint often plays the villain as well as the hero. Yet, the less obvious heroes of the story, perhaps, are the women to whom it is dedicated, his wife Joanie and his mother. They are shown to be shining examples of inner strength, patience and resilience. Then, of course, there is the man who could be credited with the greatest “save” in Buffalo Sabres history, the calm and poised trainer and Vietnam veteran Jim Pizzutelli.

A Matter of Inches is an important read for hockey fans, tough guys, fierce competitors, and anyone who has either lived with or perpetuated the stigma of mental illness. Pick up a copy at your local retailer, and meet the man behind the legend in Buffalo later this week.


Clint will be signing copies of his book at these venues:

Thursday, December 11, 2014 – 6:00pm
First Niagara Center
One Seymour H Knox III Plaza, Buffalo, NY 14203

Friday, December 12, 2014 – 12:00pm
Talking Leaves
951 Elmwood Ave, Buffalo, NY 14222

Friday, December 12, 2014 – 6:00pm
Barnes & Noble
1565 Niagara Falls Blvd, Amherst, NY 14228

Saturday, December 13, 2014 – 3:00pm
Barnes & Noble
4401 Transit Road #800, Clarence, NY 14221


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