A few weeks ago I heard about the documentary on Rich Clune, Hi My Name Is Dicky. I kept meaning to make time to watch it, but never found the time to actually sit down. I wanted to be able to watch it uninterrupted, to really understand his story. Well, last night, I finally made the time and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get choked up a few times listening to him speak. In fact, I had to watch it a second time, so that I could get myself together to gather the right information to be able to write this article. You can watch the complete doc at the very bottom of this article.
It was raining. It was pouring. I was a couple days off drugs and alcohol at the time… the withdrawals were rampant. This drive was supposed to take like eight hours, it turned into a fourteen-hour drive… at one point, my brother was witnessing an insane person come completely unglued.
Hi, my name is Dicky, and I’m an alcoholic.
Richard Clune was born on April 25, 1987 in Toronto, Ontario (Canada). At an early age as a young boy, he enjoyed heading to the rink with his brothers and his dad; to skate around and enjoy the fun of being free on the ice doing his favorite past time.
I fell in love with the smell of an arena.. being with my dad and with my brothers.. and then they put a stick in my hand… when all the other kids were like ‘man, what it would be like to play in the NHL’ and I was saying ‘well I’m going to let you know in ten years…’
After finding a new passion for playing hockey, Rich set a goal for himself. He decided he was going to do whatever it took to make it to the the show. He set the goal scoring record in the league he played in as a child. It was at that point that he realized he wanted to make a career of it. His father, Tom, said Rich didn’t want to lose, he wanted to be on top. He used to tell Rich he didn’t have to have a letter on his shirt to be a leader. Clune played in both Single A and Double A and by the age of ten or eleven, claims he was determined to get to the NHL.
Out of 10,000 kids that play hockey, eight will ever put on a NHL uniform… three will play longer than x number of games.”Tom Clune | Rich’s father
The Early Years
Rich attended St. Michael’s College School, a private boys high school in Toronto. He started going to the gym and would ask his dad about lifting weights. He was wanting to work out after hearing hockey players worked out. Clune wanted to ride stationary bikes to get in shape. He made the decision he was going to do anything to get to the NHL; even if it meant going through a wall. However, it was at that time that Rich would realize he suffered from mental addiction.
“..this is how addiction starts. It starts with a thought… and if you don’t have the tools to interrupt the thought before it becomes an obsession, you’re fucked. Because if you’re an alcoholic like me, the obsession of the mind kicks it off. So I was obsessing over it at thirteen… I was visualizing getting wasted… I stole a bunch of beers and just went off… and I got annihilated and I puked my balls off in front of everybody..“
That Night in Vancouver
“…we’re on the road in Vancouver… Rick Rypien was on the other team, who I was scared to death of… he had this reputation of being this ‘golden gloves’ boxer… he annihilated everybody in hockey… and we were around the same size… I’m like ‘this guy’s going to kill me’… I hesitated… and he grabbed me and forearm bashed me, put me down, my shoulder popped out… I hoped this guy just punched my head off, into the stands, I’d hoped that I’d never play hockey again… on the flip side, Rick Rypien was a guy who was going through his own battles at that point… he kicked the shit out of me… I left that game wanting to die… he’s not here with us… I know there’s a lot of people that miss him… why am I here, and he’s not? Why didn’t I do that?”
2011 | A Dark Year For Hockey
In 2011, three NHLers passed away that summer. Rick Rypien (1984-2011), Derek Boogaard (1982-2011), and Wade Belak (1976-2011). All three players, known enforcers, or “tough guys”, for their respective teams. However, outside of battling on the ice – each player also battled a darkness within. On May 13, 2011, Derek Boogaard of the New York Rangers, was found dead. His two brothers found him laying in bed after an accidental overdose on un-prescribed oxycodone. Rick Rypien of the Vancouver Canucks, died in his Alberta home on August 15, 2011; from an apparent suicide after a long bout with depression and not even two weeks later, on August 31, 2011, Wade Belak of the Nashville Predators (in an organizational role) was found dead in a Toronto condo. The result, also from an apparent suicide and according to his mother, after suffering from depression.
Going into treatment and the twelve-step program, it’s a spiritual program and that spoke to me… I know that it keeps a lot of people disconnected, but I know now that I could develop my own idea of what a higher power was…
A Second Chance | New Beginnings
On July 4, 2016, a few days into Free Agency, Rich Clune received a call from his agent Rick Curran about a potential opportunity with the Toronto Maple Leafs organization.
…It was the third day of free agency…Ricky [Curran] called me and he said ‘I’ve given your number to Kyle Dubas… he wants to talk to you about an opportunity [with the Maple Leafs]’…
An that day, the 29-year-old signed an AHL contract with the Toronto Marlies, the Maple Leafs AHL affiliate.
He provides a certain energy and he provides a certain experience in his life that I thought brought a great spirit to our team…Rich legitimately looks for the players that are either at risk of the most harm, or that need the most help, and then invests himself into helping them… when you try to place a value on what that means to the organization, it’s hard to do…Kyle Dubas | GM, Toronto Maple Leafs
The Big Brother
It didn’t take long for Rich to take on a leadership role with the young team both on and off the ice. He quickly earned the respect of several of his teammates. In addition, he took on a ‘big brother’ role with some of them. On May 5, 2020, Clune celebrated his 10th year of sobriety.
He’s always been kind of like a big brother for me… outside the rink he’s always been there… I’ve gone through some tough times in the past, even this year, and he’s always had my back… that’s special.”Kasperi Kapanen | Former teammate, Pittsburgh Penguins (former teammate in Toronto)
Calder Cup Journey
In his first season with the Toronto Marlies, Rich Clune had a career-high 8 goals and 24 points in 49 games; with 146 penalty minutes. The Marlies would make it to the 3rd round of the playoffs. They were eliminated 4-1in a best-of-seven series at the hands of the Hershey Bears. Clune’s impressive season earned him a call-up to the Leafs; where he played 19 games and managed 4 assists and 22 penalty minutes. In 2017-18, the Toronto Marlies would dominate a strong play-off run. They went on to win the Calder Cup after defeated the Texas Stars in a 7-game series. Although Rich never really contributed with solid numbers from a points perspective, his leadership earned him the “A”. On October 15, 2020, the Toronto Marlies announced the re-signing of Clune to a one-year contract.
In Memory Of…
As mentioned earlier, three players lost their battle with depression in the summer of 2011. In honor of all three, I’d like to share these tribute videos that were made for each of them. I hope this acts as a reminder to anybody out there that you can’t beat depression with your fists and that it’s ok to reach out for help. In Canada, we have resources available through the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) or CAMH and in the US through the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) or the CDC.
“If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”John Lennon