Wade Belak Found Dead

Kent Wilson
August 31 2011 03:43PM

 

 

Ex-Flame and Leaf enforcer Wade Belak was reportedly found dead in his Toronto condo this afternoon. The 35-year old recently retired from hockey.

Belak's death marks the third tragic passing of an NHL tough guy this summer after Derek Boogaard and Rick Rypien. The cause of his death has yet to be reported, but whatever it is, this has truly been one of the saddest offseasons in NHL memory.

More to come as details emerge. For now, sincere condolences to Belak's friends and family.

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Former Nations Overlord. Current Fn contributor and curmudgeon For questions, complaints, criticisms, etc contact Kent @ kent.wilson@gmail. Follow him on Twitter here.
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#51 madjam
September 01 2011, 10:28AM
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Is the leagues weak waterered down substance abuse recognition and treatment plan a contributor to any of these 3 tradgedies this summer ? This didn't seem to be a big problem with toughs like Semenko's , Ferguson's , etc .. Even the middle toughs could be next to follow - like Rypien ,etc.. Coincidental , or a matter of measureable coincidences .

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#52 Old Soldier
September 01 2011, 10:37AM
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An absolute tragedy.

As a former soldier, who has lost many friends to suicide, who has seen men I respect more than any other suffer from PTSD or loss of limb, and to be brutally honest once not too long ago, after retiring, contemplated it myself, I caution against the media and others trying to "link" their deaths to some root cause, its never that simple.

For all the friends I have lost, both by accident and by their own hands over the decades, even though we were all soldiers, I would never think to trivialize their personal issues by blaming one root issue.

If we stand back a second, and look beyond the grief, they really are not related or a symptom of a bigger issue that people are already pointing at.

My personal belief is this is nothing more than a tragic and horrible consequence. That to paint it as a symptom of something bigger is in my point of veiw a bit demeaning to those involved.

Derek Boogard from self-medicating due to an ongoing shoulder injury. There has been not one single fact based report of signs of malaise or depression. There has not been a single factual report of his death being anything other than a tragic accident due to abusing subtances.

Rick Rypien had an ongoing and well documented history of depression, a disease that afflicts a much higher percentage of the population than people would like to admit. In his case there has yet to be any factual basis that his depression was caused by his career. We know nothing of his past, his youth, or relationships, where depression usually starts.

Wade Belak, it hasnt even been confirmed he took his own life, for all anyone knows at this point, it could have been an aneurism or cardiac arrest. But assuming it was suicide, it is a huge jump to assume his career was behind it. There may have been family issues, there may have been relationship issues, hell...maybe he blew all his money and was broke, the fact is we will never know the root cause other than heresay.

Other than how they earned their money, I do not see anything to perpetuate the theory that this is about fighting or concussions. In the same time period there have been over 11,000 suicides in Canada and the US(32,000 annually). I have no doubt they all seemed similar to some degree, but at their core, they were all horribly unique to each individual and should be recognised as such.

This is simply the tragic and horrible loss of three young men who were in the public eye, who by all reports loved their careers, and who are now gone for reasons we will never truly know. Lets respect them as individuals and not as a group of troubled "Tough Guys"

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#53 everton fc
September 01 2011, 10:40AM
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I think we will all wonder the cause of this incredible, tragic event. What makes a seemingly decent guy, who hours before was hugging people at the pub, decide to hang himself. What demons were in his mind, controlling his thoughts, when he ended it all...

It's as eerie as it is sad...

I think the quotes below from Brad May sum up the human side of this tragedy. And it's more a families tragedy, than a hockey tragedy:

Former Toronto Maple Leaf and SportsNet hockey analyst Brad May recently spent time with Belak as they both trained to compete in Battle of the Blades.

He spoke on SportsNet shortly after the news broke.

"I'm sick and I'm sad about Wade Belak. A phenomenal guy. It was so neat because we're doing this Battle of the Blades together with a number of other players and incredible figure skaters, and Wade was going to skate for a charity that supported a foundation for one of his daughters. He talked to us the other day about his children - his two daughters - and his wife, how excited they were about this. And how much - 'cause we talked about our kids - how much he loved them. I'm sick about it," said May.

I'm sick about it, too. As a married guy, parent of 4. And I didn't even know Wade Belak.

@ Old Soldier - Well said.

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#54 Archaeologuy
September 01 2011, 10:40AM
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Vintage Flame wrote:

Is it better for these players to be in the NHL earning an NHL paycheck and going through their personal physical and mental struggles as opposed to earning a living in the minors or outside of hockey?

Mark Spector actually wrote an article in line with that topic.

You can read it here.

It's a good article. I liked it a lot.

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#55 Scott
September 01 2011, 11:15AM
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@Archaeologuy

The thing with Spector, just like the Rypien situation, he is the first guy to turn this in to a discussion on fighting in hockey, and feels the need to defend it before anyone has actually thought to bring up the point that fighting should be banned. It's like these things happen and his first thought is, " I better defend fighting"

His point is that fighting and their role in hockey has nothing to do with their deaths. He assumes that if they did any other job they would committ suicide just the same. To me he does a disservice to the players and the families of those who lost someone.

Sure the attention on mental health is brought to everyones attention because they are famous, which is always a good thing ( to bring awareness). But that would be like saying lets kill an animal on tv to bring awareness to animal welfare. We should be striving to avoid these situations before they happen, and not turning them into a political issue in regards to fighting, like Spector does.

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#56 icedawg_42
September 01 2011, 11:35AM
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dont forget that even NHL tough guys dont set out to be tough guys. These are guys who up till junior and beyond, are still heads and tails better hockey players than 98% of other players out there. The NHL roster is a very very small employer. These guys do whatever it takes to be relevant enough to make the show - including fighting, or being a clown/aggitator.

I dont think anyone should question their mental fitness just by the virtue of their "willingness to inflict pain". The bigger question - and im glad it's getting a lot of talk today, is what can be done to help these guys transition from rockstar life to normal life. Being waived and unclaimed must be the most awful feeling ever, for someone who's always been among the best of the best.

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#57 Scott
September 01 2011, 11:41AM
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@icedawg_42

Thats a great point, re: being waived. On all accounts you've about his interviews etc, he seemed happy. But i did notice a trend, for example in his talking about the battle of the blades and his new job with Nashville. He says, "hopefully it will help the transistion to life after hockey" In the national post article specifically, (the link is somewhere above) His choice of words kind of hint at a lot of doubt. So he might have seemed happy, but the transistion and fears of that life after hockey, may have been eating at him. A forced retirement is never the way anyone wants to go out. And when you go from a room full of teamates and friends, cameras and daily interviews to being left alone with your thoughts, it can quickly turn dangerous.

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#58 icedawg_42
September 01 2011, 11:46AM
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@Scott

Yup - I would imagine that the first year or maybe even longer would be critical to keep these guys on a "watch list". Justin Bourne has written an excellent blog today on that very topic - Kent appologies in advance if posting links to other blogs is a no-no

http://ca.sports.yahoo.com/nhl/blog/puck_daddy

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#59 Archaeologuy
September 01 2011, 11:55AM
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@Scott

"He assumes that if they did any other job they would committ suicide just the same."

I'd rather assume that than push mental health problems under the rug and blame fighting. I dont see the disservice of saying that there's more here than his job as a fighter. He challenges the idea that IF fighting is the cause that "the program" can save it, and he challenges the idea that fighting is the cause.

There have been 3 deaths this summer. 1 OD, 1 confirmed Suicide from a clinically depressed man, and 1 suspected suicide from seemingly the happiest guy in town.

They are all three very different, and linking the first thing that they have in common to their deaths is an over simplification.

"His point is that fighting and their role in hockey has nothing to do with their deaths."

I dont see that at all in the article. What I do see is the point that simply cutting out their jobs in the NHL wont fix the actual root causes of their mental anguish, but it will cut out their access to top notch treatment.

From my own dealings with people who suffer from addiction and depression, I like to see someone who challenges the quick and easy explanation or solution.

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#60 Scott
September 01 2011, 01:33PM
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@Archaeologuy

I found his article re Rypien to be more defensive of hockey fighting. But the insinuation that all three players had mental health issues outside of hockey, is an assumption, and in my opinion, is Spector trying to defend fighting.

The last 4 hockey deaths, including Probert were all connected throught their role on their hockey teams. But science has yet to tell us this is the cause to their mental anguish. I'm not trying to say fighting is the cause, my point (probably poorly explained) is that the topic of fighting should not be politicalized one way or the other. Just focus on the guy and his family. We should be deflect attention away from his employment just for the sake of it. Atleast with Rypien we know for sure his mental health was an issue when he came into the league, so we know that being employed as a tough guy did not create his difficulties.

Please don't take my argument as a pro-fighting argument. I would just prefer if the hockey "know-it-alls" of the sportsnet blog world took the hockey out of the equation when talking about these deaths.

In relation to my comment on the disservice to the family members. I would be upset if the first article I read online said my brother had problems before and if he had become an accountant the same thing would have happened. I interpret this as Spector saying his role didn't impact his mental health, but atleast he had access to the NHL's treatment programs. (Did Belak ever use these treatment services? I don't recall one way or the other).

Just my thoughts. Just feels that when Spector writes on such topics he is trying to ram his opinions down our throats, for the sake of doing so.

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#61 Scott
September 01 2011, 01:35PM
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@icedawg_42

Thx for the link, quite insightful.

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#62 Archaeologuy
September 01 2011, 01:36PM
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@Scott

Yeah, but that's Spector's job. His opinion is what he gets paid to write.

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#63 Scott
September 01 2011, 01:43PM
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@Archaeologuy

Fair enough, I try not to read his stuff, especially on particularly sensitive issues, as he is not very tactful. But occasionally i think to myself, " I wonder what that idiot is saying now" I guess to torture myself.

Anyway, back to topic. It does sound like the NHL could be doing a bit more to assist these players through transistion to retirement, but it does ultimately come down to whether these guys step forward to admit their health problems or stay silent. I suppose if you got "flagged" as someone who use the substance abuse programs etc, then the NHL could have someone contact you more regularly. But in this case I'm not sure if Belak did infact use any of these programs.

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#64 Old Soldier
September 01 2011, 01:55PM
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One comment that I did hear in an interview with Georges Laraque was about the difficulty transitioning from hockey to the "real world", not just for the tough guys but all hockey players.

As it stands right now there is no program within the NHLPA for transitioning or retiring players.

This has to be a difficult thing for some. First the closeness and camraderie of teammates. Second the routine.....they go from a very rigid routine in their lives, dicatated by the game and instantly that is gone. Then there is the family considerations. As someone who spent a great deal of time away from home, it is a huge adjustment for everyone when you no longer travel. You can also argue that for some players, there could be a self-image issue "I used to be famous" and the depression and insecurity that can bring.

Given the money available at league and union level, what is wrong with having professionals that help with the transition and that could include mandatory sessions with a therapist or professionl

Before I retired from the military, I actually had to go through a program regarding the transition, and though it might sound silly and childish at the time, it actually helped a lot.

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#66 Archaeologuy
September 01 2011, 03:45PM
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@Kent Wilson

You have a Psych degree? Lots of ladies in Psych. Good Choice. Very high Lulu Lemon pant to attractive student ratio.

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#67 FireOnIce
September 01 2011, 03:49PM
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Looks like Belak's death has been confirmed as a suicide. Hung himself.

Such a tragedy, and reading the outpouring of emotions from all sorts of people makes it seem crazy. With people saying Belak seemed fine, albeit worried about the transition from hockey to non-hockey, and people talking about Belak's love for his children and wife, it seems like he still had so much to live for and so much going on for him.

At that point, it would have been hard for anyone to say, "Hey Wade, how are you really feeling? Are you okay?" Maybe he would've lied, maybe he wouldn't have. Maybe he was high/drunk when he committed suicide. So many questions but only one major thing to be said: this is a tragedy, and one that hopefully can teach others a lesson, perhaps get the ball rolling in the NHL to help these players more.

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#69 icedawg_42
September 01 2011, 08:52PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

No worries ID. The comments are for discussion and if a link helps the conversation, then so be it.

Here's my own take on enforcers and potential risks. I got to dip into my University education and some left over text books for this one:

http://blogs.thescore.com/nhl/2011/09/01/on-enforcers-depression-and-risk-factors/

Finally got to read this article. Wow, there's no doubt these guys are under duress - the physical battle is one thing, but picture yourself going toe to toe, with 20000 screaming fans watching. In that respect you have to feel bad for our ole buddy Ivanans. ...then couple that with the physical damage a monster like Laraque (or MacIntyre) can do to you...pretty risky proposition. Being a pro athelete (or even semi-pro) really is a completely different life that most of us can not hope to understand. I've had former AHL'er buddies tell me nightmare stories of some of the mind games the coaches would play on them, or some of the punishment treatments their junior team would get if they lost a game etc. It's definitely not all glam and glitter.

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