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Former Leafs, Predators enforcer Wade Belak found dead at age 35 in Toronto

Aug 31, 2011, 6:36 PM EDT

Columbus Blue Jackets v Nashville Predators Getty Images

With the tragic deaths of tough guys Derek Boogaard and Rick Rypien coming just months apart, the hockey world already fought through plenty of grief during this summer. The NHL’s nightmare off-season continues today, though, as QMI reports that former enforcer Wade Belak was found dead in a Toronto Hotel room at age 35 Wednesday afternoon. The cause of Belak’s death hasn’t been revealed yet, but we’ll keep an eye out for details tonight and beyond.

Belak was beloved for his sense of humor and kind off-ice demeanor during his lengthy NHL career. Although he enjoyed stints with the Colorado Avalanche, Calgary Flames, Florida Panthers and Nashville Predators, he will probably be best known as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He spent parts of seven seasons in Toronto, where he charmed many fans along the way. Belak was scheduled to appear on the popular CBC game show “Battle of the Blades” this year, another indication of his popularity.

Belak scored eight goals and 25 assists for 33 points while collecting 1,263 penalty minutes in 549 regular season games spread over 14 seasons. Belak also played in 22 playoff games – all with Toronto – scoring one goal and collecting 36 penalty minutes. Belak was involved in 136 fights in his NHL career, according to “fight card” information at Hockey Fights.com.

It’s been a brutal four months for the league, as Boogaard (28) died on May 13 while Rypien (27) passed away on August 15. The NHL and its players association already announced plans to examine and improve upon their support programs, but Belak’s death will probably do more to force that issue – regardless of the cause of death.

This is a tough blow to take, especially since Belak leaves behind a wife and two young daughters. You can read more about Belak’s life and career here. Our hearts go out to his family on another dark day for the sport.

Update: Belak’s final NHL team the Nashville Predators released this statement regarding his death.

“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 who 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.”

Update (7:44 p.m.): NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr issued this statement:

“All Players and NHLPA staff are sincerely saddened and shocked by the passing of former member Wade Belak. His affable personality made him popular with teammates, fans and media, and he was a hardworking, respected member of the Association. He will undoubtedly be greatly missed throughout the entire hockey community. Our deepest condolences go out to Wade’s family and friends during this very difficult time.”

Update (7:45 p.m.): NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman released a statement mourning Belak’s passing:

“The National Hockey League family mourns the passing of Wade Belak, who competed to the utmost every minute of his NHL career. Our hearts go out to Wade’s loved ones, his friends, his former teammates and to all who feel the horrible void left by this tragedy.”

Update (9:15 p.m.): Unfortunately, the Toronto Sun is reporting that according to their sources, Belak’s cause of death: suicide

More as it becomes available.

  1. trbowman - Aug 31, 2011 at 6:36 PM

    ANOTHER enforcer……

  2. capsrockva - Aug 31, 2011 at 6:44 PM

    I can’t believe this. Another one, God this has been awful summer for Hockey fans all over. My thoughts and prayers go out yet once again

  3. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Aug 31, 2011 at 8:14 PM

    Too many tragedies. My thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family

    RIP Wade, you were much beloved in Toronto and you will be missed

  4. muttbolts - Aug 31, 2011 at 8:54 PM

    They didnt mention bob probert .it was a lil while ago though

  5. Kristenaux - Aug 31, 2011 at 9:23 PM

    Should we be looking at the role of enforcer beyond sports & how exciting it is for the fans? As three players are now dead in just months, & others are still recovering from the effects of tough guys & enforcers, how far does this have to go before someone says, ‘gee, maybe the human body wasn’t meant for all this?’

    • TestSubjekt - Aug 31, 2011 at 9:41 PM

      “As three players are now dead in just months”

      Lucky for us the NHL didn’t just adopt fighting last season and they have a long history which we could look at to form a logical conclusion. How many enforcers died in the year before last? The one before that?

      FWIW, Theo Fleury on twitter appears to be blaming drug companies for people overdosing on drugs.

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Aug 31, 2011 at 11:25 PM

        Rypien was a suicide and Boogard was a result of substance abuse. Neither have been conclusively linked to their role as enforcers. The links being made between players fighting and dying are anecdotal. Gordie Howe was no enforcer but he sure was a fighter, still going strong at 83. Yes these recent deaths are all tragedies but everyone calling for fighting’s role in hockey to be reconsidered is overreacting. For every enforcer who has passed there are many more who are living perfectly normal lives. These untimely deaths are sad events but using them as a rallying cry against fighting is just plain wrong. I’m not trying to be insensitive, I’ve offered my condolences after each tragedy this summer. I just don’t like people citing inconclusive evidence such as these events as a reason to alter fighting’s role in hockey. These are unfortunate tragedies and should be treated as such, nothing more

      • galuple - Sep 1, 2011 at 12:55 AM

        I’m with Theo. A lot of these medications you can take have the side effects of making you feel just miserable.

        I had a friend on my HS team who was taking meds and although his life wasn’t a walk in the park, he was just miserable all the time, and often talked about killing himself. My coach convinced him to stop taking the drugs and his depression went away.

    • stakex - Sep 1, 2011 at 2:30 AM

      @Kristenaux – Can you find a link between the three deaths, or evidence of enforcers dieing at this rate in past years? Because I sure as hell can’t. It is very very likely these three deaths are just a very unfortunate coincidence.

      The role of the enfocer has been around since the game itself. In fact, in years past the role of the enforcer was even more dangerous then it is today. Not only is the game far safter today then it was 20 years ago, but lets face it, the role is a far smaller part of the game these days then it use to be. Thus, if these deaths were related to the fact these guys were enforcers… it stands to reason the NHL would have seen a whole lot more enforcer deaths over the years, especially 20-30 years ago. That didn’t happened however.

      There is no need for any sort of knee jerk reaction to this. Its just a coincidence… a horrible coincidence, but a councidence none the less.

  6. icelovinbrotha215 - Aug 31, 2011 at 10:43 PM

    They need to evaluate the blows to the head. Concussions are scary. The NFL has already had doctors conclude that concussions are most likely linked to suicides committed by former players. The NHL needs to consider their counterpart’s diagnosis. Prayers to the Belak family.

  7. bcjim - Aug 31, 2011 at 11:12 PM

    Very sad news.

  8. purnellmeagrejr - Sep 1, 2011 at 9:13 AM

    This is odd – I’m not a big hockey fan but the players seem to be the most regular down to earth people when I’ve heard them interviewed.

  9. hystoracle - Sep 1, 2011 at 10:43 AM

    All these deaths in a CBA year, mmmmm. Strange coincidence. Anyone seen the head of the NHLPA lately? It is starting to smell funny.

    If concussions cause suicides there would be a lot of people jumping put of windows. Professional athletes aren’t the only people that suffer from concussions. Maybe the enforcers are depressed because Mr. Bettman won’t let them fight anymore and that threatens their career.

  10. polegojim - Sep 2, 2011 at 9:46 AM

    Updated report is true – hanged himself. The greatest pain isn’t the method, it’s the pain inside that caused him to take the action.

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