The summer has not been kind to hockey.
In May, New York Rangers left winger Derek Boogaard mixed alcohol and oxycodone and died. Earlier this month, Winnipeg Jets forward Rick Rypien killed himself, and now, just yesterday afternoon, 15-year NHL veteran Wade Belak has been found dead in Toronto. Foul play isn’t suspected and we don’t officially know the cause of death, but CBC is saying it was suicide. Three tragedies since May.
A 12th-overall draft pick in 1994, the 35-year old Belak spent his time in pro hockey with the Colorado Avalanche, Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers and Nashville Predators. He retired in March, but had been named as one of the contestants for the upcoming third season of the CBC’s “Battle of the Blades” and was scheduled to be part of the Predators’ television broadcast team. Former Nashville Predators assistant General Manager Mike Santos (now with the Panthers) talked to the Miami Herald about Belak’s passing, and put it way better than anyone writing a blog about it could.
“He was as friendly and nice a person as I have ever met,” Santos said. “He would give you the shirt off his back. He did so much for kids and our community. He was wonderful. I’m shocked. I’m sad. I don’t know what to say. It’s a real shame. He’s the best.”
That’s it in a nutshell, really. You remember the kindness, and you don’t know why it was taken away. The Predators, the team with whom Belak spent his final three seasons, issued their own statement:
“The entire Nashville Predators organization and family is shocked and saddened by the sudden and untimely passing of Wade Belak. Wade was a beloved member of the organization, a terrific teammate and wonderful father and husband. He will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Jennifer and children Andie and Alex. We offer our full support to them at this very difficult time.”
If you visit our friends at Puck Daddy you can read comments from Gary Bettman, Donald Fehr and more as they come in throughout the day. Hopefully this is the last time hockey fans and families will have to go through this, at least for a little while.