Former Maple Leafs enforcer Wade Belak was found dead in a downtown Toronto condominium Wednesday afternoon.
Belak, 35, who just retired from the NHL this past season, became the third player (albeit former) to suffer a (very) premature death this off-season.
Strangely enough all the deaths have been that of enforcers, New York’s Derek Boogaard and Atlanta’s Rick Rypien, which should have the NHL investigating whether or not the role of enforcer adds extra physical or psychological damage on such players who make a living fighting opponents rather than scoring goals.
Belak was not known to have any mental or physical illnesses. The cause of death is currently unknown. A fan favorite in Toronto, he was known for his sharp-witted humour, especially when joking to members of the media. On the ice, Belak was a consummate team player with tireless amounts of energy. He was accepting of any role given to him, even playing on the defense or playing as a top six forward.
After announcing his retirement on March 8, 2011, Belak stayed with the Predators in an organizational role. He was expected to become a rink-side reporter for the Predators in the upcoming season as well as competing in CBC’s upcoming season of The Battle of the Blades.
Belak, a Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-native, played for five NHL teams including the Maple Leafs, where he served the longest. He was a first round draft pick of the Quebec Nordiques, selected 12th overall in the 1994 Entry Draft. In his 18 season- career, Belak scored 33 points, racked up 1263 penalty minutes and dropped the gloves 136 times.
Belak leaves behind a wife and two daughters.