When Rich Clune returned home to join the Maple Leafs organization, I’m not sure he’d understand the footprint he’d leave behind seven years later.
15 seasons, eight professional teams, 624 AHL games, 143 in the NHL — the 35-year-old is entering retirement with a legacy that’s going to be remembered forever.
We could say it began in 2015 when Clune returned to play for his hometown team in Toronto, but really, it started long before that. From the ages of 15-24, he faced the toughest battle of his life against alcohol and substance use disorder.
“I was such a mess that I was either going to wind up dead or kill somebody else.” Clune wrote in a Players Tribune article back in 2015.
He openly told his story — something that’s incredibly hard to do — to help others. Clune called it “The Battle”.
“As a hockey player, you’re constantly worried about what the boys think. What coach thinks. We have been taught to view words like “disease” as a weakness. I am an alcoholic. I have a disease. But I am stronger than I have ever been.” Clune wrote. “I blame nobody but myself for my past, and I realize that every day I wake up to a choice: How do I want to live? I still go out with my teammates. I go to weddings. I go to the beach. I dance and laugh and part …
Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation