Former NHL player Wade Belak was found dead Wednesday in an apparent suicide at his Toronto condo. According to the Associated Press, an anonymous source told the news organization that Belak hanged himself.
Police sources say Belak’s death is being treated as a suicide, although they cannot confirm until an autopsy is performed.
In March, the former Toronto Maple Leafs enforcer retired after playing 14 seasons. He was living in downtown Toronto while rehearsing for CBC’s reality show Battle of the Blades.
Belak’s father said the former hockey player was not showing signs of depression or anxiety and seemed excited about his new career. Belak was about to start working as a sideline reporter this season with the Nashville Predators, said his father Lionel Aadland.
Aadland is not sure why his son committed suicide.
“I wish I knew,” he said on Thursday. “It’s disappointing that he would choose that option, and totally surprising. We, as a family, didn’t-- maybe naively-- see anything. We’re somewhat distanced by miles from them, but we talk, and we think we’re a good, tight family. We just didn’t see any signs.”
Belak is the third NHL enforcer to pass away this summer, all died by unfortunate circumstances. Winnipeg Jets forward Rick Rypien suffered from depression and committed suicide earlier this month. In May, New York Rangers forward Derek Boogaard’s death was ruled an accidental overdose of an alcohol and oxycodone mixture.
A former player said he saw Belak drinking Tuesday night with some friends but he “didn’t seem intoxicated at all. He was just as he was always, just happy-go-lucky,” said Troy Kahler.
Those close to Belak remember him being a charming person who never took himself too seriously and was worked hard to perform well on the ice.
“Certainly, he was brave,” said former Leafs coach Pat Quinn. “He’d answer anything as far as the physical side of the game required of him. He didn’t back down from anything.”
“He was such a bright light, he had a smile on his face every day,” Quinn said. “The last time I saw him, he was up at TSN to talk about a career change into television. He seemed very, very happy with himself. Certainly, I was delighted to hear that. He was one of those special guys I enjoyed having.”
Belak leaves behind a wife and had two young daughters.