March 22nd 1989, Blues at Sabres Clint Malarchuk sweeps the ice shavings from his crease, same as he's done 240 times prior on the senior circuit; never made an All-Star team, and never will never received any hardware, and never will he's a bit above average, a grinder, a journeyman, as dependable as a rusted hinge on a barn door he's just been sent from Washington with a sixth-round pick and another journeyman to freeze indoors and out on the banks of Lake Erie northeastern springs are unforgiving, but all is well new city, new team, new opportunities, but at 15:17 of the first period, fate shorts out there's a scramble in front of the Buffalo net St. Louis winger Steve Tuttle goes ass over teakettle and severs Clint's carotid artery with his skate and from the fracas in the crease emerges on prime time god damn television a fountain of oxblood, the stuff of those Faces of Death tapes from behind the counter at the video store, the dull pixels of a dying man the rink is a slaughterhouse floor, the bison's every heartbeat a red eruption, each thump draining it a little bit more off-ice, an ex-combat medic on staff pinches off the artery and kneels on Clint's clavicle to slow down his heart rate; final tally: eleven fans fainting, three players puking a litre and a half of lost blood, and 300 stitches
February 10th 2008, Panthers at Sabres the old Aud is set be demolished, but its ghosts hang over the Sabres like the retired jerseys up in the rafters on this night they'd howl back to life Florida's Richard Zednik would catch a teammate's skate to the neck catch a dark echo from nineteen years prior catch Clint Malarchuk off guard catch Clint Malarchuk fielding questions on TV
catch Clint Malarchuk watching the Zednik footage catch Clint Malarchuk rewatching his own footage the angst and panic were already well entrenched the nightmares had been there since 1990 guillotining him through the fog of fitful sleep but the scab again fresh, the pillbox and the bottle hit with the locomotive force of two decades of unprocessed, unaddressed trauma the acceleration of unravelment by 2009 he'd busted out of three rehab clinics that October, under a mountain of Coors Light cans behind his barn, Clint decided the last pill he'd need would be one of brass and gun powder a new burrowing hole for the old earthworm the taste of wet copper again flooding his sinuses he begged Joanie not to call the cops, or tell them he did it to himself on purpose he didn't fear losing his blood or his mind or his consciousness or his wife he just didn't want to lose his job again
August 1st, 2015, the Waterfront Westin in Boston the crucible resets in an unsuspecting beige room with flat lighting and old carpet from well behind the lectern, Clint Malarchuk spins his hardships into threads of silver so his siblings can wind them around their wrists and pray with them when the days seem darkest; Joanie's there too the full story too fraught for one person to tell and no matter how often they tell it or how many shop-worn self-deprecating jokes they lay out like leg pads on the locker room floor to absorb the shock, they trudge through it muscles aflame, ducts swollen, speech trepidatious, since exposure doesn't dull nerves since repetition doesn't breed ease since "better" is a relative term for the way back from a brainful of acronymic ills, and doesn't even begin to account for the gulf between itself the faint looming praise of "okay" but what it definitely does, amid the murk, is bolster a clarity of vision which comes with some small workable amount of peace, a sliver of shine so they see themselves in you, and though it is obscured, or even fully set as far as those sitting on their folding chairs enraptured in this echoey anonymous auditorium are concerned know the sun outside is as real and golden as the giant buckle on your belt, the one you brought here from the farmhouse
Derek Godin is a writer based in Montreal. He is the co-founder and co-editor of the film criticism website Dim the House Lights, a graduate of Concordia University’s MA Film Studies program, and a two-time WWE Intercontinental Champion (only two of these are true).