Tag: depression

Colin Wilson, David Legwand, Shea Weber

Wade Belak laid to rest today; Tie Domi speaks up about depression


Friends and family of Wade Belak said their final good-byes to their fallen friend in Nashville as Belak’s funeral was held Sunday morning. The funeral was a private ceremony closed off to the public and while it’s still unknown exactly how Belak died, speculation continues to swirl over how depression played a role in his mental state. While that cloud still lingers on, his former teammates remembered him as one of the nicest guys off the ice.

Past teammates from Belak’s days in Toronto with the Maple Leafs as well as his most recent teammates from Nashville have talked about what a special guy he was. David Legwand even took out a full page advertisement in a Nashville newspaper to remember him by.

The Tennessean’s Josh Cooper caught up with former Toronto teammate of Belak’s, Tie Domi, to get his reflections on a guy who died too young. Domi said that the talk of Belak’s struggle with depression may have played a role in his death.

Following the service, Domi intimated that Belak may have suffered from depression, and it was a contributing factor in his death.

“This has to do with depression and getting the right message out there,” Domi said. “That depression can be beat. That’s what I want to do for him and his family is get the right message out there. Because the wrong message has been sent. Not just about hockey. This is about life. There are 3,500 people in Canada who commit suicide a year, 80 percent of them are men.”

Added Domi, “Wade was alone and he can’t be alone when you have these things going on. You have to call somebody.”

The cause of learning more about depression and finding ways to combat it and help those dealing with it on a daily basis is one that’s worth being educated about. If it proves to be true that Belak committed suicide, it makes an already sad story and makes it sadder. After talk from Belak’s mother and TSN host Michael Landsberg about how they knew of Belak’s struggle with depression, it would be tough to see that he took his life because it got to be too much for him.

Nothing is going to help bring him back, but if his death proves to be an example for people to learn about the perils of depression, Belak’s legacy could prove to help people with their own lives and mental health.

Wade Belak’s mother says he suffered from depression

Wade Belak

Wade Belak’s tragic death has created debate and discussion throughout the hockey world.

From seeing other former players come out and put pressure on the NHL and NHLPA to do things to better assist players to the league and the union saying they’ll team up to start improving things, it’s been a terrible summer for the league and for those who care for its players.

As for what ailed Wade Belak, who’s believed to have committed suicide, his mother says that he suffered silently with the same issue that addled Rick Rypien: Depression.

James Mirtle from The Globe & Mail shares the story.

 Speaking from Nashville, where Belak’s funeral will be held Sunday afternoon, Lorraine Belak told the CBC on Friday that the family believed he was in “control” of the problem.

“I think he was taking control of that,” she said. “We didn’t talk about it all the time, or a lot.

“It’s extremely difficult to wrap our heads around this. But we are trying to cope the best we can.”

Two players dead over the course of a month and both dealt with depression problems. Depression is a difficult problem because many who suffer from it do so privately never wanting to put on a public face that shows pain. Others don’t want to their family and friends to worry about them.

In Belak’s case, given what others have said about him after his death, many never seemed to know that he was struggling with depression. With his mother saying she knew as well as TSN host Michael Landsberg also confirming Belak’s personal ordeal, it shows how an illness like this can go unnoticed and unknown by even those that work with him daily.

It’s so sad to see these things come to a head in such terrible ways. Seeing someone get to a point where they feel their only escape is to end their own life is the most tragic and terrible situation and one that affects everyone around them after the fact. Getting players and people the help they need when they feel hopeless is something that hockey fans are getting to know all too much about now.

Wade Belak’s funeral will take place in Nashville on Sunday

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While the hockey world and various pundits try to make sense of Wade Belak’s death, the former fighting defenseman’s family, friends and colleagues also must move on. A big part of the grieving process will happen in Nashville, where his funeral will take place on Sunday. Belak played his final NHL games with the Nashville Predators.

In the mean time, the search for answers will continue as details emerge. The Toronto Sun’s Dave Feschuk wrote that two anonymous sources claimed that Belak struggled with depression and quietly used medication to try to deal with his issues. It’s not a shocking revelation, but it’s important to try to maintain a sense of perspective even in a time of awful loss.

To some, that column will fuel a reaction that his former teams, the league or someone else was to blame for this sad story. The NHL and its players association hope to find ways to improve their process, but it’s naive to believe that a larger entity can solve its players’ issues with some broad stroke. If there’s one prevailing thought that is emerging from the many columns and criticisms, it’s that the culture needs to change.

That’s not something that you can expect to change overnight, though; some might assail the “macho” culture of hockey yet that same person may glorify the brazen action of a player giving up his body to block a shot once the action picks up again. The league should examine how it opens up the lines of communication between players, teams and health care professionals, but ultimately it might take some time before hockey people are willing to be honest about their problems.

After all, Belak and others aren’t just fighting on the ice, they’re often fighting to keep their jobs. One can see the double-edged sword that enforcers would deal with: if they decide to break their silence, they might not be in the NHL much longer because they may be deemed unfit to complete their duties.

This may be an issue that can only be realistically solved by baby steps. The NHL is probably justified in trying to keep players’ troubles as confidential as possible for all the reasons stated in the previous paragraphs. If you ask me, the best they can do is find practical ways to encourage players to seek help if they need it, on their own terms. Maybe that means investigating troubling signs a little more deeply or consulting any number of different avenues, but to claim that there’s a quick-fix solution is to ignore human nature and a complicated issue like depression.

Hopefully we’ll remember Belak and other recently deceased hockey players for more than just their untimely ends, even if their deaths might give others the push they needed to get the help they’ve been missing.

What the NHL and NHLPA should learn from a year filled with tragic death

Wade Belak

There’s no way to be able to wrap your head around what’s happened off the ice in the hockey world this year.

Since the start of 2011 we’ve seen four tragic deaths. Sharks minor leaguer Tom Cavanaugh, Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard, former Canucks tough guy Rick Rypien, and now recently retired scrapper Wade Belak. Of those four, three of them are believed to be suicides (Rypien’s cause of death is still yet unknown while Belak’s is suspected to be a suicide) and Boogaard’s came thanks to a toxic mix of painkillers and alcohol all stemming from being upset with missing time thanks to post-concussion syndrome.

We’re not here to hypothesize on what caused these young men to reach that dark place where killing their body with toxins or taking their own life seemed like the right answer to the situation they were in. Doing that is a folly. Trying to figure out if the life of an NHL tough guy or a concussion victim leads to being consumed by the saddest of sad thoughts is too much for people not in the know to speculate on. While you could draw conclusions with a guy like Rypien, using the same methodology for a guy like Belak doesn’t make sense. We just don’t know what made these guys tick and that’s part of the frustration in dealing with their untimely deaths.

What needs to be looked at is how the NHL and the NHLPA are trying to take care of their troubled souls. Former NHL tough guys Tyson Nash and Matthew Barnaby took to Twitter to point the finger at the NHLPA for not helping players prepare for their post-career lives. In Belak’s case, this makes some sense although Belak wasn’t lacking in opportunity post-hockey. Belak was set to be a rinkside reporter for Predators broadcasts and was also set to compete on CBC’s Battle of the Blades celebrity figure skating competition.

The fact here remains that pro hockey players are guys that have been playing since childhood and have known a professional schedule lifestyle that consisted of virtually nothing but hockey. When it comes time to retire or if you’re forced out of the game by injury, it’s a colossal culture change for players which sometimes leaves guys feeling lost.

It’s the sort of situation that makes you think of the character Brooks from the film “The Shawshank Redemption.” After so many years on the inside of prison, when he was set free he became a lost soul unable to adapt to a new way of life on the outside. That’s not to say that the hockey lifestyle is like a prison, just that when everything you’ve ever known is thrown into disarray, if you’re not ready for it you can be left feeling swamped over.

Whether it comes from preparing players for their post-career lives, helping them with substance abuse, or getting them help when it feels like there’s no way out of the darkness that’s enveloping their lives being proactive to let the players know there’s help when they need it is the absolute least they can do and it has to start early.

The NFL and NBA hold rookie symposiums for incoming players to help them better prepare for the perils of being a professional athlete. Having the NHLPA and NHL work together to let players know that there is a program in place to help (the NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse & Behavioral Health Program) can get the word out early and let it be known that help is there if needed. Whether the problems stem from abusing alcohol or pain killers, the assistance is there.

With depression is one of the most personal and most private mental illnesses, teaching players early on what the signs of it are and that reaching out for help when it’s needed. That’s not nearly enough to help those who are depressed, but doing something is better than doing nothing. Depression is such a difficult thing because even with proper counseling and a great circle of friends, it still might not be enough to save someone from their thoughts. Ignoring it, however, is not an option.

With  so much sadness and so many questions left unanswered for those players and their families, the time is now for the NHL and NHLPA to work together and make sure that sadness and avoidable tragedy will not happen in the future. One death is one too many, four is a sign of a much larger problem that must be addressed.

Michael Ryder’s brother Daniel found not guilty of holding up a convenience store

Michael Ryder

Rick Rypien’s death prompted the Vancouver Canucks to try to plan a tough battle against depression and with good reason: the former tough guy is far from the only hockey player to struggle with such demons. Daniel Ryder ranks as an ex-NHL prospect whose issues held him back to the point that he went from being a promising player to someone who ended up in a psychiatric hospital after turning himself in amid accusations of holding up a convenience store.

The sad story of the brother of former Boston Bruins and current Dallas Stars sniper Michael Ryder (pictured) might take at least a small step in a positive direction, as CBC News reports that Daniel was found not guilty for that robbery today. In total, the CBC reports that he was cleared of three charges: theft, robbery with violence and wearing a disguise.

It seems like the case came down to a lack of concrete evidence of Daniel’s guilt, according to the judge’s decision. The Packet provides a few more strange details from the trial and the court’s decision.

Judge Patrick Kennedy cleared the former hockey star on all charges. Kennedy took almost two hours to read his decision, indicating there was a high degree of evidence pointing to Ryder’s opportunity to commit the offence. However, he said, the burden of proof was not met by the Crown.

The trial was based around a video of the robbery and circumstantial evidence of Ryder’s activities on the night of the robbery. Nobody could positively identify the suspect in the video, and there was no forensic evidence linking Ryder to the scene of the crime. Ryder’s behaviour at the time was unusual which, according to testimony in court, was due in part to mental illness that was diagnosed after the robbery.

Kennedy said the evidence “does not draw the net tightly enough around the accused.”

Hopefully Daniel Ryder is in the process of getting the help he needs to turn his life around, even if hockey left the picture quite a while ago.