August 31, 2012
Today is the one year anniversary of former Leaf Wade Belak’s death. Belak was not the most skilled player, but he always gave his all on the ice and was a notoriously tough guy who was also a great interview and locker room presence. Growing up a Leafs fan, Belak was one of my favourite players. Not because of his skill on the ice, but because of the type of person he was. I was at a game when I was around 9 years old and I was lucky enough to get 2nd or 3rd row platinum seats. You can imagine a 9 year olds excitement at the prospect of getting to be so close to his heroes in person. Seeing how excited I was my father decided to take me down to the game early to see the players warmup. I was so thrilled at the thought of seeing Curtis Joseph, Mats Sundin and yes, Wade Belak in a non-game situation. As I was sitting there in my kids sized Curtis Joseph jersey it was not the great Cujo that caught my eye, but the nowhere near as talented Wade Belak. He was laughing while warming up, his helmet off, firing random pucks into the boards and glass, and joking around with both his teammates and the fans. It amused me so much that a player could still have so much fun playing the game he loved even if it was his job. He fired a couple of shots into my general area and made a few faces at me. 9 year old me was absolutely thrilled. Then, warmup ended and the players started to come off of the ice. As most players were leaving I noticed Belak skating lazily into a corner and bend down to pick up a puck. Strange I thought, wasn’t that the ice crews job? Just then, Belak skated off the ice, well after his teammates. I was expecting him to simply walk off into the tunnel, but to my surprise he waved at me and motioned for me to come closer. He flipped the puck he had towards me and said “Enjoy the game kid, we’ll try to win this one for ya.” These words have been burned into my mind ever since. I was on cloud nine, happy doesn’t even begin to describe it. But that was typical Wade, he was just naturally like that. It was not his skill on the ice, but his actions and personality off of it that instantly made him one of my all-time favourite players. Neither me nor my father will ever forget that day and it was certainly one of the defining moments in my life. As I enter school in a few days en route to hopefully becoming a sports broadcaster I can honestly say that Wade Belak helped influence my career path. I wanted to deal with people like Wade Belak, interact with them, although for the most part at that young age I wanted to be a player. I wanted to become immersed in the hockey world because of the opportunity to meet and coexist with great people like Wade Belak, So thank you Wade, not only for changing my life, but for the impact you left on society. One year later and the hockey world still misses you beyond belief.
Oh yeah, the Leafs won the game.
May you rest in peace.
(Note: It’s been reported that Wade Belak had despression that may have led to his death. If you are depressed or know somebody that is so, PLEASE get the proper care needed! Wade Belak’s live could have been saved, and it pains me as a sufferer of clinical depression that he never got the proper help. So do what you can to help yourself and others, and if necessary don’t be afraid to call a suicide hotline. I have, and I’m here today because of it. Depression is nothing to be ashamed of, but also not something to take lightly. Take care of yourselves.)