NHL Player Rich Clune’s Battle with Addiction and Mental Health

Rich Clune grew up like many Canadians, dreaming of playing in the NHL. Around the age of 12, Rich realized his dream had the possibility of becoming a reality. He never would have thought that eight years later and playing in the NHL playoffs for the LA Kings, he would have wanted to be anywhere else in the world but playing professional hockey.

Rich got drunk for the first time at age 13 and it quickly became an obsession to chase that feeling. Drinking eliminated insecurities and filled the hole inside him that made him uncomfortable in his own skin. Over time, Rich’s vices moved to cocaine and Percocet. From the age of 19 to 23, he was doing cocaine regularly. It wasn’t out of the question for him to use before a game to help jack him up after not sleeping for a couple of days.

Rich battled his addiction through the early years of his NHL career. His youth and natural ability allowed him to get by, although barely. He knew he had a problem, but coming to terms with how big the problem was and getting help was another story. After the playoff series with the Kings, Rich realized he was on the verge of throwing his life away. Following an unsuccessful rehab stint, Rich was ready to go back, but not after one final bender. Rich told himself that if he survived this last tornado of drugs and drinking, he would check himself into rehab. The real battle was about to begin.

Rich flew to Boston to meet his brother Matt who drove him to Toronto in an excruciatingly long car ride. Rich was going through full withdrawals the whole way. Upon landing at the rehab facility, Rich needed three full days sober and was forced to spend a night in St. Joseph’s Health Centre. With the support of friends and family, Rich fought back and found himself again. He found his love for hockey and his love for life. Rich is going into his 12th year playing professional hockey, fresh off a Calder Cup championship with the Leafs AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies. While his past was rocky and full of ups and downs, Rich says he wouldn’t change a thing, as it has made him the man he is today.

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