While plenty of fans and members of the media are trying to figure out what Wade Belak’s death means to the NHL, it’s sobering to remember that Belak’s untimely passing will leave gigantic void for all of his friends and family. With each and every detail that is released, another wound is created for the people knew him on a personal level. Another wound for those who saw him on a day-to-day basis. Another wound for those who loved him.
Former teams have released public statements. The NHL and the NHLPA released statements yesterday and followed them up with a joint statement today. Finally, this afternoon, his wife Jennifer Belak issued a public statement as the aftershocks continue to hit the Belak family.
From the Nashville Predators official site:
“We are overwhelmed and deeply touched by the outpouring of compassion and support since Wade’s passing. Wade was a big man with an even bigger heart. He was a deeply devoted father and husband, a loyal friend and a well respected athlete. This loss leaves a huge hole in our lives and, as we move forward, we ask that everyone remember Wade’s infectious sense of humor, his caring spirit and the joy he brought to his friends, family and fans. The coming days will be very difficult for our family and we respectfully ask that we be allowed to grieve privately.”
The outpouring of support thus far has been what makes the hockey community great. Fans and journalists alike have mostly shown respect during an incredibly difficult and sensitive time. There are questions that need to be addressed regarding hockey and the unsettling common threads that bind each loss—and over time all of the questions will be addressed. Is there a mandate for the NHLPA to do a better job preparing hockey players for life after the game? Are there psychological reprocussions from being an NHL enforcer that the league is currently stuggling to understand?
There’s a laundry list of questions surrounding the sport in a time of crisis—and in a time of crisis, people demand quick answers. The painful truth is that it takes time to find all the answers that caused this to happen. Worse yet, it takes time for the league and its players to even ask the right questions. At this point, we can only hope that the series of unfortunate events this summer will eventually lead to some answers in the future. For no other reason, we could find the solutions that could prevent the next heartbreaking incident.
It’s still far too early to definitely say that there’s a single root problem that caused tom Cavanaugh, Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, and Belak to be taken far too early. But it’s not too early for the NHL and the NHLPA to start investigating to prevent it from happening again. There may be nothing the sport can do—but it would be a crime for them to bury their heads in the sand and ignore this catastrophic summer.
We’ll continue to follow the story as more details emerge.