The NHL has lost another one of its tough guys; Wade Belak has passed away. One of the most respected players for any team he played on, Belak was a tough player to play against and always stood up for the star players on his team. He may not have been a household name, but if you were to ask former teammates of his, they would only praise him for what he did for the team.
Belak played three seasons for the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL prior to being drafted 12th overall by the Quebec Nordiques in 1994. He spent one more year with the Blades before moving to the Hershey Bears of the AHL.
He made his debut in the NHL with the Colorado Avalanche, after the team moved. He was then part of the package going to the Calgary Flames that sent Theo Fleury to the Avalanche. Next, he was claimed off waivers by the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he went on to play for the majority of his career. Following his stint in Toronto, he spent time with the Florida Panthers and the Nashville Predators.
Wade Belak was one of Toronto's fan-favorite defensemen from when he very first debuted during the 2000-01 season to when he left in 2007-08. In 313 games with the Maple Leafs, Belak posted seven goals and 16 assists for 23 points, while accumulating 763 penalty minutes.
Former coach Pat Quinn spoke to TSN 1050 in Toronto, saying that Belak always walked into the locker room with a smile on his face; it rubbed off on him and other players. In his career, Belak played in 549 games, scored eight goals, had 25 assists and 1,263 penalty minutes.
Will the NHL abolish fighting if deaths such as this continue?
The Associated Press has confirmed that Belak hanged himself in his Toronto condo. He was in town, slated to be on the upcoming season of the CBC reality show Battle of the Blades.
As I was listening to TSN 1050, they had somebody on who said that Belak’s personality off the ice was the complete opposite of the enforcer that we saw on the ice. He also said that Belak hated what he did on the ice as the fighter for his team who possibly hurt other players.
With Belak being the third former enforcer to pass this offseason, in the wake of Derek Boogaard and Rick Rypien, the NHL now has to really consider the fact that these players aren’t being protected in the best way possible. Their lives after hockey are going to be severely affected—if they even make it past their retirements.
Players like Colton Orr, George Parros, Zenon Kenopka and Chris Neil all play this style of game. Seeing what has happened during the offseason, I hate to say it, but these players could be headed towards similar fates.
I don’t what’s going on in their heads, but when three players like this die in one offseason, something has to be going on. Concussions can do some weird things to a person’s mind and who knows what the future holds for these enforcers.
Wade Belak was a player that will be missed in every city he played in. I will remember his time in Toronto fondly and I know that many other fans will too. Hopefully this is the last time that a writer has to write about a player who died too young.