Clint Malarchuk was a candid goaltender that when he spoke the quote stuck with him and they were funny. The Chuk as most of my friends called him when we were growing up was always fun to watch when Darren Puppa wasn't in the net. Of course Darren was always our favorite because we made fun of his last name but when the Chuk would get onto the ice we would make just as much noise if not more.
I had gotten a chance to speak with Clint Malarchuk back in April when I went to Columbus, Ohio for a wedding. The wedding was for my girlfriend's brothers wedding who which he married the personal secretary of the Columbus Blue Jackets. The fun part of going to a shin gig like this is that there are all sorts of people that you know from hockey walking around.
When I walked into Nationwide Arena where the reception was being held for the rehearsal dinner for the wedding there, a lot of people were mixing and mingling around. I head over to my table and start stuffing my face with the free food and over walks the Chuk from the buffet table to sit down. I start slapping my girlfriend's arm and she starts to get angry with me and says "spit it out what are you hitting me for!" I swallow my food and grasp a breath of air to release "Chuk!" and then got my composure to say his full name to her and explain who he was.
I let him finish eating as well as I do and as people start getting into conversations I start my own with the Chuk. As me and a few others go over to him to speak to him he opens himself up to conversation as he knew it was going to be coming since all of us are hockey freaks, minus my girlfriend of course. He speaks of his days of getting drunk and playing hockey in the minors and then making it to the NHL and how playing for the Nordiques was one of the most fun times of his life.
As we got into the conversation we all were keeping away from the obvious question that made him famous for all these years. The reason goalie masks are either extended or altered depending on the style. He brought it up and actually laughed and cracked jokes about it which was pretty funny to see. Considering the guy almost died you would think it would be a touchy subject but not for the Chuk.
I'll be honest with you, the Chuk wasn't that great. He was mediocre at best but he still made it to the NHL and he did revolutionize the industry for goaltenders after the accident with his throat. My friend at the reception brought up a quote that he would never forget after hearing it years ago and this quote was after the Chuk got back on the ice just days after his life threatening injury.
"Doctors told me to take the rest of the year off, but there was no way the longer you wait, the harder it's going to be. I play for keeps."
Talk about your hard nosed goaltender. He even got himself off the ice with the help of the trainer that was keeping him alive of course.
After a few beers and some nice thoughts of the days of hockey in Buffalo with the Chuk we bid him a fond adieu and parted ways after a 3 hour conversation. The reality of the Chuk is unreal. His life has been anything but boring and safe. This man deserves something special from the fans of Hockey, I'm not sure what that is yet but when I do i'll get back to you!