Rich Clune saved his own life.
Rich had a strong Junior career and was a goal scorer from the left wing. He made it into the NHL with the Dallas Stars before playing with Los Angeles and Nashville.
But even as he rose the ranks of the NHL, he was battling his own personal disease of addiction.
Rich shared his story on The Players Tribune. While he will likely never set foot in the hall of fame, his story just may help save other lives.
Stay strong Rich. We’ll be rooting for you.
Excerpts from the story:
I used to get home from hockey practice and start drinking at lunch. From the time I was playing Junior hockey for the Sarnia Sting to my first year in the NHL with the Los Angeles Kings, I would start drinking the second I woke up on my days off. I smoked marijuana every single day. By the time I was 19 years old, I was using cocaine weekly. If you saw me out at a bar in Ontario or New Hampshire or Los Angeles, laughing and cracking jokes, you probably would have thought, “Look at that kid. He’s living the dream.”
What you wouldn’t see is me waking up shaking in my bed at 5 a.m., my nose bleeding all over the pillow.
Then I would go to practice the next day with a smile on my face and compete at a high level. Why in the world would I do this? No, I am not your stereotypical neanderthal. I was the kid taking private art classes in high school and watching Tarantino movies. I was the kid who was supposed to play hockey at Harvard before begging his parents to let him play in the OHL instead. I was the kid who made a blood-pact promise to his mom that he would never fight in Juniors (which pissed off the coaches to no end). I won the Bobby Smith Award for the OHL’s scholastic player of the year, for Christ’s sake. And I did all of that while binge drinking every single day, often alone in my room.
I am certainly not unique. There are players in the NHL right now who are suffering and you would never know it from looking at their stat sheet or how hard they compete in practice. When I was 19 with the Barrie Colts, I had 30 goals and 80 points while being a complete wreck off the ice. Plenty of teammates and coaches had suspicions about me over the years, but nobody knew how bad it was. I was just the wild man. Every hockey team has one. Or 10. Then by my 2008 season in the AHL, after I had been drafted by the Dallas Stars, I started going on coke benders that would last for days. I lost 14 pounds over a summer, and the jig was up. My family sat me down for an intervention, and I couldn’t bullshit my way out of it anymore. I will never forget the look on the faces of my two younger brothers. I was like their hero growing up, their best friend, the leader. And I could see it in their eyes that they were legitimately afraid of me.
Image courtesy of Sarah Fuqua.