On This Date in Sports March 22, 1989: Clint Malarchuk

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Clint Malarchuk of the Buffalo Sabres is nearly killed in a horrific collision at the goal crease in a game against the St. Louis Blues at The Aud. During a collision with Sabres defenseman Uwe Krupp, Steve Tuttle’s skate comes up and slices the goalie’s throat causing a pool of blood. If not quick actions of the Sabres medical staff, Malarchuk would have died. Despite the traumatic injury, Clint Malarchuk played again ten days later.

Clint Malarchuk was born on May 1, 1961, in Grande Prairie, Alberta. After playing with the Portland Winter Hawks of the Western Hockey League, Malarchuk made his NHL debut with the Quebec Nordiques on December 13, 1981, earning a tie against the Buffalo Sabres. Over the next four years, Clint Malarchuk split time between the Nordiques and their AHL affiliate, the Fredericton Express, before making it the NHL for good in 1985.

After two years as the Nordiques starting goalie, Clint Malarchuk was traded to the Washington Capitals with Dale Hunter for Gaetan Duchesne, Alan Haworth, and the Capitals' 1987 first-round draft pick, the 15th overall pick used to select Joe Sakic. Malarchuk was traded again on March 7, 1989, from the Capitals to the Sabres with Grant Ledyard and a 1991 draft pick for Calle Johansson, and a 1989 draft pick.

Just three weeks after the trade, Clint Malarchuk was in goal for the Buffalo Sabres for a home game at the Memorial Auditorium against the St. Louis Blues. With the Blues hold a 1-0 lead with just under five minutes left in the first period Malarchuk is cut when Uwe Krupp checks Steve Tuttle near the goal crease. Tuttle’s skate had come up and sliced the Sabres goalie neck cutting into his jugular vein.

The danger to Clint Milarchuk’s life was seen immediately as within seconds. There was a pool of blood on the ice at The Aud. The excessive blood caused fans watching the game to become physically sick, as it was reported that two people suffered heart attacks. As the life began to drain from Malarchuk, trainer Jim Pizzutelli quickly him off the ice and began applying pressure to the wound. Pizzutelli, who served as a combat medic in Vietnam, was familiar with how to hold off the bleeding on such potentially fatal injuries by pinching on the vein. Working in Clint Malarchuk’s favor was the accident was close to the Zamboni entrance, which allowed him to leave the ice on his own quickly to get medical attention. Fearing he was about to die, Malarchuk asked for a priest and for someone to call his mother. However, thanks to the efforts of Pizzutelli and the Sabres team doctors, the Sabres goalie was stabilized in the back and taken to a local hospital where he received over 300 stitches to close the six-inch wound.


The game did not resume until it was learned that Clint Malarchuk was in stable condition as the Blues won the game 2-1. Malarchuk, who lost 1.5 liters of blood, was able to leave the hospital just two days later and returned to the ice ten days later. After the Malarchuk incident, the NHL mandated that all goalie had to wear neck protectors.

While Clint Malarchuk returned to the ice ten days after the accident, he was haunted by the injury for years. His NHL career ended in 1992 as he played another five years in the IHL with the San Diego Gulls and Las Vegas Thunder. He later coached in the NHL but suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and substance abuse. Malarchuk even tried to commit suicide in 2008 as he continually replayed the collision in his head.