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Belak found dead in Toronto condo


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A sad off-season in the National Hockey League continued Wednesday with the death of former Toronto Maple Leafs and Calgary Flames tough guy Wade Belak, CBC News has confirmed.

Belak, who played 15 seasons in the NHL with five teams and had retired on March 8, reportedly was found in the tony 1 King West Hotel and Residence, just blocks from the Air Canada Centre in downtown Toronto. He was 35.

Born in Saskatoon and raised in Battleford, Sask., Belak is the third NHL player to die in less than four months.

In mid-May, New York Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard, 28, was found dead in his Minneapolis apartment from a drug overdose, while one-time Vancouver Canucks forward Rick Rypien was found in his Alberta home earlier this month, a "sudden" and "non-suspicious" death, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Rypien was suffering from depression.

Belak, who maintained residences in B.C. and Nashville —where he last skated in the NHL for the Predators —was in Toronto to film the third season of Battle of the Blades, the CBC's successful reality-show mixture of hockey and figure skating, which begins Sept. 18.

"We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the sudden passing of Wade Belak. We send our thoughts and condolences to his family and friends. He will be greatly missed," Kirstine Stewart, CBC executive vice-president of English services, said in a statement.

The Predators also released a statement: "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."

1st-round pick

The Belak family is not commenting at this time, CBC News in Saskatchewan reported Wednesday evening.

Belak was a first-round pick of the Quebec Nordiques (now Colorado Avalanche), drafted 12th overall in 1994. He broke into the NHL with the Avalanche during the 1996-97 campaign, playing five regular-season games. Belak appeared in eight games the following season and 22 in 1998-99 before moving on to the Calgary Flames for two-plus seasons.

It was during Belak's next NHL stop in Toronto, where he spent the next six-plus seasons, where the player realized he had a future in the league.

"That's where I learned to play forward and defence," Belak told the Toronto Star in May of this year. "I knew my role was the enforcer type, but I learned a lot of things along the way from people like [former NHL tough guy] Warren Rychel."

After a short stint with the Florida Panthers, Belak joined his fifth and final team in Nashville. He played two-plus seasons with the Predators before the grind of the job had given Belak arthritis in his pelvis and he chose to end his playing career.

He went on to launch a career in media as a sideline reporter for radio during Predators broadcasts while collecting his salary of $575,000 US.

There were hospital visits, cortisone shots and needles directed into his midsection followed a three to four days of recovery.

"My body was telling me it was ready [to retire]," Belak told the Star. "I thought last year I was ready, but when the [Predators] offered me a chance to come back, I jumped at it. I was helping the younger guys, as you get older, your role changes and I think I was more of a mentor … a good guy to have in the dressing room, lighten up the locker room."

Belak finished with eight goals and 33 points in 549 NHL regular-season games, collecting another goal in 22 playoff contests.

"All players and NHLPA staff are sincerely saddened and shocked by the passing of former member Wade Belak," NHLPA executive director Don Fehr said in a statement. "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."

An outgoing personality, the six-foot-five, 220-pound Belak often brought a comedic presence to the dressing room, trading barbs with teammates, offering his quick wit in interviews, and providing funny and entertaining quotes for reporters.

He also would poke fun at himself and became a regular on Leafs TV and on morning radio in Toronto with alternative rock station The Edge 102.1

Belak was asked by the Star about the best thing that happened to him as a player and he answered by saying the first goal he scored in the NHL with Colorado in 1997-98 and his last, with Toronto, in 2007-08.

"Fans were chanting my name in the streets," he said, "it felt like I was mayor for a week."


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Guest Low Roller

From Eric Engles:

"The CBC's P.J Stock appeared on "Melnick in the Afternoon" yesterday and intimated that he's familiar with what happened, and suggested that though Belak's cause of death was strangulation, it was accidental. Again, we'll have to wait and see if any more details are officially released."

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  • 1 month later...
From Eric Engles:

"The CBC's P.J Stock appeared on "Melnick in the Afternoon" yesterday and intimated that he's familiar with what happened, and suggested that though Belak's cause of death was strangulation, it was accidental. Again, we'll have to wait and see if any more details are officially released."

When Chris Nilan was on OTR last week he wouldn't characterize Belak's death as suicide, instead saying something like, "Who knows what happened there."

Has anything else related to this possibly being accidental come out yet?

Edited by Guest
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Yup. there was an article in the Star not too long ago that stated his wife and family were treating it as an accident. Even though he was said to be depressed, he had too much going for him to off himself, the story said.

If you've ever read much Palahniuk, that type of death (accidental strangulation) is all too common, unfortunately.

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