Why Wade Belak Got A Good Reception

Dave McCarthyCorrespondent IJanuary 14, 2009

Heard On Episode 4.18 of A Foot In The Crease

Last week, Maple Leaf fans witnessed the return of Bryan McCabe to Toronto. In just over a month from now, the much hyped return of Mats Sundin will take place. But sandwiched in between the return of two outstanding albeit at times, enigmatic players was the return of Wade Belak to Toronto this past week when the Nashville Predators visited the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Unlike McCabe and most likely Sundin, Belak received a warm welcome and loud ovation from the gathering at Air Canada Centre. Not bad for a guy with just one goal in his past two hundred and thirteen games. His appeal though to Leaf fans was obviously not due to his scoring prowess, but rather his willingness to play a role, accept that role, stick to it without complaining, and in turn excel at it.

Following one of the most glaring cheap shots in recent memory in which Cam Jansen, then of the New Jersey Devils, drove an unsuspecting Tomas Kaberle head first into the boards long after he had moved the puck leaving the talented Leaf defenseman with a concussion and sore neck, Belak took note of the incident and knew what he had to do.

In the next meeting between the two teams, Belak asked Jansen to fight. He then took centre stage at centre ice in arguably what turned out to be the defining moment of his Leaf career.

Belak responded the right way, not delivering an equally dirty hit, but facing Jansen man to man and ensuring he or any other would-be cheap shot artist knew that under his watch, the Maple Leafs would not be a team that could be pushed around.

Since Belak’s departure, his presence has been sorely missed and you can be sure Brian Burke is going to work to restore a similar feeling for opponents when facing the Maple Leafs.

I’ll leave it with a direct quote from Kaberle himself. "It was really nice what Wade did for me. I never asked him to do that for me. He did it all on his own. "Wade cared about his teammates. He defended them. He really cares about players."

But hey, all that was just rigamarole.