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Wade Belak Found Dead, Hanged Himself In Hotel Room

Sarah Sotoodeh |
September 6, 2011 | 10:13 a.m. PDT

Staff Writer


Belak was said to be suffering from depression before taking his life. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.
Belak was said to be suffering from depression before taking his life. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.
Wade Belak is now the third NHL player to die this offseason.

Belak, 35, was found dead on Aug. 31 in a Toronto hotel. The enforcer, who had retired in March, had hanged himself according to police. 

Belak lived in Tennessee with his family but was in Toronto preparing for “Battle of the Blades”—a CBC ice skating reality show.

“All I know is that it is still under investigation,” Belak’s mother told CBC News on September 2 during a phone interview.  “The only thing I can tell you is he did not die of natural causes.”

The hockey community is in mourning. Players have been tweeting condolences and prayers since the shocking news broke. Matt Moulson of the New York Islanders, George Parros from the Anaheim Ducks, Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens and Brandon Prust of the New York Rangers are just a few of the dozens that have used twitter to express their sadness and disbelief.

“I remember skating with Wade 13 years ago at a summer camp when I was 18 and in college.  He was a pro, he worked hard, he was funny and…he was extremely nice to me and he didn’t have to be.  I was just a college kid.  I looked up to him ever since then.  You’ll be missed Wade,” Mike Commodore of the Detroit Red Wings wrote in several tweets.

Belak’s death comes only 16 days after Rick Rypien’s death, and less than four months after Derek Boogaard’s accidental death from a lethal mixture of oxycodone, a painkiller, and alcohol.  

The NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHL Player Association Executive Director Donald Fehr released a joint statement about the multiple tragedies: 

“While the circumstances of each case are unique, these tragic events cannot be ignored.   We are committed to examining, in detail, the factors that may have contributed to these events, and to determining whether concrete steps can be taken to enhance player welfare and minimize the likelihood of such events taking place.”

Belak’s death has raised more questions about the possible effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)—a degenerative brain disease linked with repeated hard hits. Dave Duerson, a retired NFL safety sent a text to his family, asking them to test his brain for CTE before shooting himself in the head in February. A medical examine in May revealed that Duerson did in fact have the disease that has been found in over 20 deceased football players.

Wade Belak was born on July 3, 1976 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.  The forward was drafted by the Quebec Nordiques in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft— the team later became the Colorado Avalanche when the franchise relocated in 1995.  During his 14-year career in the NHL, he played for the Colorado Avalanche, the Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers and the Nashville Predators.  

Belak played with the Predators for 15 games during the 2010-11 season but after being placed on waivers and going unclaimed, was reassigned to the Predators AHL affiliate team.  However, he chose to retire from the sport and work with the team in an organizational role.

The enforcer was also a volunteer firefighter for the Williamson County Fire Rescue Squad and hosted a radio show, called the Wade Belak Show during the season.

“Wade was a big man with an even bigger heart.  He was a deeply devoted father and husband, a loyal friend and a well-respected athlete,” Jennifer Belak, his wife, said in a statement.  “This loss leaves a hole in our lives and, as we move forward, we ask that everyone remember Wade’s infectious sense of humor, his caring spirit and the joy he brought to his friends, family and fans.  The coming days will be very difficult for our family and we respectfully ask that we be allowed to grieve privately.”

The private funeral was held September 4 in Nashville at the Woodmont Christian Church.  He is survived by his wife Jennifer and two children, Andie and Alex.

Reach Sarah Sotoodeh here. Follow on Twitter here.



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