Thursday, September 01, 2011

Death comes calling, again...

The hockey world is once again reeling, with the shocking and unexpected news that former NHLer Wade Belak was found dead in a Toronto hotel/condominium complex on Wednesday afternoon.

The death of Belak adds another name to a summer list that has left many in the hockey world wondering what is going on and makes for a very sombre end to the summer season, a period of time where we have read of the passing of three NHL players of recent note.  Two, with Derek Boogaard and Rick Rypien who were still on NHL rosters and now Belak who recently retired and by all accounts was looking forward to his life after hockey.

Statements released by the Maple Leafs and the NHL on Wednesday, offered sympathy and support to the family and provided  a snapshot of Belak's time in the NHL and with the Leafs.

But with the news of Wednesday, he like those that passed before him leaves us with many questions and few if any answers that make sense of it all.

The popular one time Toronto Maple Leaf, and veteran of a number of other NHL teams, had carved out a space in the NHL based mostly on the physical nature of his play and his role as an enforcer, a role that is now under the spotlight owing to the line that can be drawn between all three passings of this miserable summer for hockey.

The majority of the articles that have been published in the short hours since his passing was announced have outlined a fellow that was fun loving, one of the "great guys in the room" and a person who clearly had made an impression among those he touched on a daily basis.

Like Mr. Boogaaard and Mr. Rypien before, people have tended to dwell on the off ice personna, a valued friend and team mate, the sadness genuine that they are all gone, leaving us only to wonder why and whether anything could have been done to find a different path.

That is something that the NHL no doubt will have to address and if changes are required to the nature of a game that thrives on physical play then so be it, this is clearly an issue that can't be dodged or avoided and while the NHL will again take time to pause and grieve.

If the nature of the job, the physical toll on the body is eventually deemed to be a contributing factor in these sad epitaphs to careers, then clearly there is work to be done.

But for today, like the majority of hockey fans we just sit back an wonder why death has come calling, again. For those in the hockey community there is yet again one more funeral to attend, one more funeral too many.

Some of the more reasoned and at times emotional pieces over the last day or so can be found below, they all offer up glimpses into the life of Wade Belak and help to address the issues that his passing once again bring up.

National Post-- Belak death an end to a wretched summer
National Post-- Belak always good for a laugh and an autograph
National Post-- Former Maple Leafs enforcer Wade Belak found dead
Globe and Mail-- Ex NHL enforcer Wade Belak remembered as upbeat, loud and fun
Toronto Star-- After Belak's death, NHL must finally take action
Toronto Star-- Tough to view fighting the same ever again
Toronto Star-- Belak at his best in interview with Star in 2006
Toronto Sun-- Belak: Another good man we thought we knew
Toronto Sun-- In praise of Wade
Toronto Sun-- Tragic summer for hockey turns catastrophic
Toronto Sun-- 'Brave face' culture must change
Toronto Sun-- Sometimes you just can't tell
Toronto Sun-- A writer's best friend
Montreal Gazette-- Cruel game exacts toll on players
Winnipeg Free Press-- Stop the madness
TSN-- Shock doesn't begin to describe Belak death Ex-NHLer Belak committed suicide: sources Do enforcers have a role to play in NHL hockey? No easy answers NHL, NHLPA need to reassess programs

No comments: