Wade Belak Found Dead



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.

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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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  • Ken V.

    I feel really bad for the families of these young men. While they have made the choice to do this with there lives, there are many in the sport that have encouraged the behaviours that likely have contributed to their untimely deaths. I think head trauma in hockey is especially brutal because of the speed of the collisions and bare knuckle fights that are so celebrated. I can’t help but feel some sense of sickness thinking back to the ‘rock’em, sock’em’ videos that I used to so enjoy. To add to the Belak story as well, Marc Savard’s career seems likely to be over, likely as a result of a series of brutal head shots. RIP Belak, Rip, Boogard, and the many others we likely don’t hear about.

  • Ken V.

    There has to be a link between taking so many hits to the head and depression and the medication related to both as well. Another tragic loss just begs for answers…. As for Derek, Rick and Wade you will all be missed as you have left your stamp in the NHL and won’t soon be forgotten.

  • everton fc

    Words fail here. Belak was a player I enjoyed watching. He seemed like a typical, decent guy from Sask. We all know many like him… Who grew up like him…

    I especially feel for his wife and two young daughters. How do you explain to a child so young that their dad is gone forever. We need to keep this family in our prayers. Not to mention Wade’s family back in the Battlefords…

    Eric – I think you may be onto something with the addictions to prescription pain killers. It may also be rooted in post-concussion depression. But painkillers are so dangerous.

    I am shocked by this one. I really am. He was a good Flame. He played hard here. And everywhere he went afterwards. I can’t imagine what must have been going through his mind when he decided he’d had enough with life.

    Like someone said above, we need to pray for the families of these guys. I mean this sincerely. We need to pray for their families… Especially Wade’s wife and little girls.

  • I would like to give my deepest sympathy to the belak family… Wade was a mentor of mine along with his brother graham. Thier father coached me when i was a kid back in N.B. sask. And at Christmas time the boys would come home from the W.H.L and the N.H.L and teach us all the greatest plays! as a kid there was nothing greater than that.. I respect you wade like a tougher bigger better brother! miss you Big Cat. R.I.P. One day we will meet again.

  • When the National on CBC opens up with Wade Belak dying this is starting to get serious. I surely hope that it’s just a strange/sad coincidence that 3 guys who fought for a living in the NHL died in the the same off season. All of us enjoy fights, but it’s almost eerie when you look on Youtube & watch a fight between Boogaard & Belak now.

    I heard him talking to Stauffer a few weeks ago on the “former” oilers lunch (I think it was), you wouldn’t know anything was wrong from the way he spoke…he was supposed to be the colour guy for the predators this season.

  • What I am shocked about is the similarities between the deaths of these NHL enforcers and the deaths of professional wrestlers. Both of these professions take a lot of jarring hits, have really long “seasons” (Bret Hart once mentioned that he worked 300 days in a year) and in some cases suffer from drug and mental health issues. I am not sure that this is due to class or industry or what but something should be done.

    Belak was often cheered for in the Battlefords and will be missed. Condolences to his friends and family. I hope to god no more players die this off season.

  • Vintage Flame

    I had a chance to run into Wade outside of the rink one day.. just a fluke passing by, but he was a decent guy and stopped to chat. Class act.

    Dude was funny too.

  • Captain Ron

    RIP Wade! My family is from Coleman & the Crowsnest Pass & Sparwood & some were related to Rick Rypien. It was so sad & my heart goes out to all the families. All 3 were different & it shows people are all vulnerable no matter how things look. With the news of Wade, knowing he had a family, I was just numb & feeling dazed. I will pray for all the families and that their sorrow will turn to the fond memories of their loved ones & know the world was better because of them.

  • Old Soldier

    Interesting theory on the pattern this month is the Werther Effect. Some good articles on the net that talk about how people follow examples and tend to look at others when dealing with their own life.

    Is there any correlation to him and Rypiens death. Were they cousins, or did they just have the same cousin in Mark Rypien. Tough for that family to have to go through something like this.

    Is it possible that it is Boomers fault? He interviewed him before he died, and while there are some mornings that Boomer makes me crazy is it possible its that much worse when you are interviewed by him?

    • Is it possible that it is Boomers fault?
      I don’t think so. Depression and suicide ideation are typically long-standing and complex. It’s more likely a series of issues built up for Belak (including his impending retirement, which is tough for any hockey player) than a single radio interview.

  • Captain Ron

    On a more serious note, some philosophical questions.

    Knowing the impact that the enforcer role has one players health, physical and mental, why do the Flames have two or three players on their roster that are used just for fighting?

    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?

    What will it take to get the “dancing bear” orchestrated hockey fight out of the game? I am not against fighting if it is spontaneous and is an outlet for anger or frusteration on the ice. Fists are better than sticks. But every year the game shows less reason for using a roster spot for a player that players 1-3 shifts for 2-5 minutes and is there only to fight another teams tough guy. They cannot actually protect anybody because of the enforcer rule, so how is it the game of hockey can justify having this role still in the game?

    • Vintage Flame

      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.

        • Scott

          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.

          • “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.

          • Scott

            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.

          • Scott

            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.

  • Wade was my favourite Maple Leaf, not beause of his ability, but because he seemed to have the best and healthiest attitude. He knew that he was a borderline player earning a small fortune playing in the most-scrutinised hockey market in the world, and he wore that pressure seemingly without effort. Always smiling, always making time for the press and fans, and coming in and out of lineup without complaint.

    My favourite memory was a quote he delivered on HNIC: his mom was in town to see the Leafs, and asked him why she hadn’t seen any Wade Belak sweaters for sale in the ACC giftshop, and he replied, “Gee, they must be sold out again.”

    What a guy.

  • Captain Ron

    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 .

  • Old Soldier

    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”

  • everton fc

    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.

  • icedawg_42

    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.

    • Scott

      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.

  • Old Soldier

    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.

  • 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.