Today, an NHL player was found dead in Toronto. Wait, does it seem like I already wrote one of these posts this summer? Oh that's right, it's because I did.
Wade Belak is actually the third current NHLer to pass away this summer. The second, Winnipeg forward Rick Rypien, took his own life on August 15th following a 10-year bout with depression. Boogaard (linked above) was eventually declared to have died from a fatal combination of alcohol and painkillers.
I'll tell you what, this summer can't end soon enough for the hockey world.
Here's Wyshynski's fantastic recap of the event and the immediate fallout. This write up from Adrian Dater of the Denver Post is good, too, for a more personal angle. Belak has always been what you might call a fringe NHL player, so much so that I had actually forgotten that he used to be an Av.
Nothing said about a cause of death yet. An early rumor said suicide, a later report said no, definitely not suicide, and a still later report on CBC said yes, suicide. I don't know what to make of it. After Boogaard's death, it was revealed that he'd had a history with substance abuse. Even before Rypien died, it was pretty well-known that he was dealing with a lot of personal demons. But Belak...from everything I've picked up over the course of the evening, he was happily married, a great friend, fun to hang around, well-adjusted, a proud papa, and fresh out of retirement/ready to take on a broadcast job with the Predators (his last team). He was Tweeting about how excited he was to be on the upcoming season of Battle of the Blades (sort of Dancing with the Stars, but on ice) Then today, dead.
There are so many things about this that are just terrible. He has two daughters, ages seven and five. His wife reportedly found out about the death via the news. 'Cause when you've got a scoop, you can't sit on it for thirty damn minutes while the police find a way to contact the widow...
All three of these guys were enforcers. Thugs/tough guys/policemen/fighters. They all mean pretty much the same thing. Which means there are folks who are already blaming fighting in hockey for all three deaths. Look, I don't know weather playing the tough-guy role for fifteen years had something to do with this death or not. It may have been one of those random fatal heart attacks that sometimes happen to healthy 35-year-old men. But come on, folks. Now is not the time for the argument.
For now, the hockey world just wants to mourn for a little bit. When the time's right, let the people in charge look at all the facts (which we still don't have yet) and figure out what, if anything, needs to be done to keep these things from happening. (For the record, both the Rypien and Boogaard families went on record to talk about all the help, support, and resources the NHL provided to help Rick and Derek get through their respective issues)
In the meantime, this whole thing is just sad.