Tag: Tom Cavanagh

Salavat Yulayev vs. Atlant - KHL - Russian crash reaction

In a year of hockey tragedy, fans and players will look to the game to heal together


The hockey community whether it’s that amongst the players or the fans is a very tightly knit one. The players’ bond with each other is as strong as any in professional sports and the fans’ love for the players and for each other is one that’s rivaled by very few in the sports community. Having a year like the hockey world has had this year is one that would test the limits of most anyone.

First there was the saddening suicide of minor league Sharks forward Tom Cavanagh in January. In May, Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard was found dead in his Minnesota apartment having died from a toxic mix of painkillers and alcohol. In the last few weeks we’ve had the gut-wrenching deaths of tough guys Rick Rypien and Wade Belak to sort through and try to figure out what it is that’s causing guys so young to either die or take their own lives too soon.

While many were still grieving over those terrible deaths, a disaster in Russia comes out of nowhere with a horrifying plane crash that takes the lives of virtually every member of KHL team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl; A team made up of many former NHL players famous and otherwise as well as other Russian professionals and junior stars.

So much tragedy, so much sadness, and so many questions left unanswered or ones we’d rather not have to hear the answers for. How can a family of hockey players, families, and fans cope with so much sadness? With so many awful things happening while there’s nothing going on on the ice, the answer for so many will be to turn their attention back to the game itself.

The cries always go up in August about how fans cannot wait until it’s October again to have the NHL, and hockey in general, back on the ice. This is the first time in a long time where hockey being played might be the only thing that helps put people’s minds at ease. While we try to stomach the unfathomable catastrophe in Russia and think of those lost and affected, their loss came while attempting to get to Minsk to begin their KHL season. Numerous lives lost all while trying to do what they love and support those who love them. It’s heartbreaking news of the highest order.

What we can all take away from this summer of horror is to appreciate all that we do have. Times like these even outside this realm of hockey are hard for a lot of people and hockey can provide their escape from the harshness of reality. Events like these remind us that we’re all trying to live the dream one way or another.

Embrace every day as a new and beautiful one and be thankful for what you do have and the people you do have in your life. Tell your loved ones that you’re thinking about them. Wish someone well on a new endeavor and hope that they’ll come away better for it. Tell someone important to you that you love them. We can be thankful that we’ll have an escape from all this sadness and unbelievable tragedy soon enough, but the players are people just like we are just the same and they’ll be in mourning just as we are.

We’re all feeling the pain again today and this summer is one that won’t be forgotten, but perhaps we can all grow together stronger through all of this. Making an already close-knit hockey family even stronger can’t be a bad thing.

NHL and NHLPA vow to team up to try and solve what’s ailing their players

Gary Bettman
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After Wade Belak’s shocking death in a Toronto condominium, the focus on what’s ailing NHL players has taken over the discussion this offseason. With four player deaths this year alone with Belak joining Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, and Tom Cavanagh as players who dealt with problems off the ice and sought other means to ail themselves and their worried minds, the NHL and NHLPA have some startling realities to face up to.

We said this morning that now as the time for both the league and the player’s union to work together to try and help their players out and this call was one shared by a handful of former players as well. Today, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr issued a joint statement saying that they realize things have gotten to a point where they need to do something.

The statement cuts right to the heart of the matter.

“Everyone at the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players’ Association is profoundly saddened by the loss, within a matter of a few weeks, of three young men, each of whom was in the prime of his life.

“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.  Our organizations are committed to a thorough evaluation of our existing assistance programs and practices and will make immediate modifications and improvements to the extent they are deemed warranted.

“It is important to ensure that every reasonable step and precaution is taken to make NHL players, and all members of the NHL family, aware of the vast resources available to them when they are in need of assistance. We want individuals to feel comfortable seeking help when they need help.

“NHL Clubs and our fans should know that every avenue will be explored and every option pursued in the furtherance of this objective.”

It’s heartbreaking to see these situations arise with players and to not know there’s a problem, in some cases, until it’s far too late makes it all the more difficult. For the league and the union to recognize there’s something bigger at hand here and being proactive in trying to do something, anything, about it is a great start.

While we’re often critical of the league or the union for being slow to react when it comes to matters involving the game on the ice, being active in the process to get things figured out for this and reacting quickly is a move that had to be made. After all, you often don’t know if there’s a guy dealing with personal issues because matters like that are kept extremely private, often hidden from their family and friends.

We hope that this is the first of many improvements for the league and their players when it comes to taking matters of substance abuse, behavioral issues, and depression very seriously. It’s just a start for now, but one everyone had to make. Let’s just hope that stories like we’ve had this year can be further avoided.

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.