Clint Malarchuk shares inspiring story of recovery at Breakfast of Champions
Clint Malarchuk shared his extraordinary life experience with mental illness and addiction before a sold-out crowd of more than 1,200 people at this year’s Breakfast of Champions. The annual event hosted by St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation and the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Middlesex coincided with Mental Health Week.
“Breakfast of Champions has done what we hoped it would do since it began 12 years ago,” says Michelle Campbell, President and CEO, St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation. “It has grown to be the main source of community dialogue about mental health and helped to build a greater public understanding and acceptance of mental illness in our community.”
Malarchuk told light-hearted stories about his days in the NHL and spoke honestly about his lifelong battle with mental illness and addiction. The former goaltender and coach played professional hockey for more than a decade, but is perhaps best known for a gruesome on-ice injury he sustained during a game against the St. Louis Blues on March 22, 1989. As an opposing player crashed into the crease, their skate blade accidentally sliced open Malarchuk’s neck, severing his carotid artery and partially tearing his jugular vein. Malarchuk nearly died as a result of the injury but that did not stop him from returning to the ice only 10 days later against the advice of medical experts.
A brief message from @cmalarchuk to those who attended Breakfast of Champions. Thank you so much for sharing your inspiring story with us this morning. @CMHAMiddlesex @stjosephslondon #BOC18 pic.twitter.com/g7hqXNZwoA— StJoseph'sFoundation (@SJHCFoundation) May 8, 2018
Malarchuk now believes he returned too soon. He says he lived with undiagnosed post-traumatic stress as a result of the accident for nearly two decades before receiving treatment. He recalls often waking up in a cold sweat at night with his heart racing from vivid dreams of a skate blade cutting open his neck.
He turned to alcohol to escape feelings of depression and anxiety. His substance abuse spiraled out of control and his mental health deteriorated to a point where he attempted suicide. But Malarchuk survived, again. This time he decided to get the care he desperately needed.
Today, Malarchuk is doing much better, although he admits that he still has challenging days. During a tour of the Mental Health Care Building at Parkwood Institute prior to Breakfast of Champions, he talked to several patients about his experiences and even signed a few autographs. He was encouraged seeing the “sparkle” in the eyes of those on their own path towards recovery and praised the facility for its warm and healing environment. In sharing his story, Malarchuk hopes to inspire others to share theirs.
The audience gave Malarchuk a standing ovation as he left the stage for speaking so candidly about his mental health. They also applauded the winners of the CMHA Middlesex Champion of Mental Health Awards, Kristin Legault-Donkers and Lubrico Warranty, for making significant contributions to advance mental wellness in the community.
We would like to thank everyone who attended the 12th annual Breakfast of Champions and for contributing towards a greater understanding of mental health and wellness. We hope to see you again next year!
View photos from the event in our Flickr gallery below