When I heard yesterday that Wade Belak was found dead in Toronto, my reaction was pretty much the same as everyone else's. Seriously, another NHLer dead. This has been an odd off season for the NHL. Never before have they had to deal with this kind of situation. In a matter of three months, two currently players and one recently retired have died. Two within two weeks of each other.
The outpouring of shock from players, coaches, and fans alike was that he seemed to be a happy, upbeat guy who had nothing wrong and was looking forward to the future outside of the NHL. My thoughts, when I heard that he had possibly killed himself, was that how could someone who had two little girls at home not go get help for whatever was eating away at him. I cannot understand that.
I, myself, have entered some dark times in my life. Not dark where I thought of ending it all, but dark in which I didn't want to get out of bed, couldn't see the light at the tunnel, tears constantly, and just in general wondering if it was all worth it. I did tell a few close friends how I was feeling, discussed what was happening with them, and eventually things turned themselves around. I was definitely going to speak to someone should I not feel better soon. So I do understand being depressed and not seeing benefits in a lot of things. But killing yourself, that's not something I understand.
Now everyone is looking for a reason as to why this happened. Why did a man who seemed upbeat, positive, and that he never had a bad day, kill himself and leave his wife and young daughters without him? Some say it's because there is no support for NHLers who are no longer playing. I don't see this as a good "excuse". He retired after the trade deadline when he was waived and not picked up by another team. I doubt he had even had a chance to sense he wasn't playing.
The main reason people are coming up with is the enforcer role on a team. All three players who have died this summer were all enforcers. Georges Laraque came out and said that he did not like having this role and that it bothered him. He also stated in a further interview that enforcers are paid a lesser amount than most, and no longer getting those pay checks is hard. But the thing about the three of them are different. Everyone knew that Derek Boogaard, the first player to die this off season, had addiction problem. He died by mixing prescription drugs and alcohol. Boogaard had surgery, that may have been the start of his drug addiction, but his death was accidental. Could have been nothing more than losing track of how many pills he had and drinking too much.
Rick Rypien had a history of depression for the past 10 years. Some say it may have started when his girlfriend was killed in a car crash while playing junior. He had been on leave a few times to deal with depression and a few weeks ago, it seemed to be too much for him and he took his life.
Belak is different than the other two. No one has come out to say they thought anything was wrong. I've read several articles quoting that he seemed to never have a bad day. He made jokes, was a fan favourite and seemed to be an all around nice guy.
Yes the NHL should look into these deaths and see if there is a connection between them being enforcers and their deaths. But I think that these are three separate cases which just happens to involved three men who had similar roles in the NHL. I do hope that something comes of their investigation and that the NHL can find a way to show these men that there is nothing wrong with seeking out help when things look bleak. Seeking help, rather than hurting the people we love, is far better than trying to keep up a macho image.