Wade Belak's funeral held in Nashville
Published Sunday, September 4, 2011 6:57PM EDT
Private funeral services were held for former National Hockey League enforcer Wade Belak in Tennessee on Sunday afternoon.
The much-loved NHL veteran was found dead in a downtown Toronto hotel on Wednesday.
Police have been mum on the cause of his sudden passing, saying only that his death is "non-suspicious" in nature and that foul play is not suspected.
However a source told The Canadian Press that the 35-year-old had hung himself in an apparent suicide.
Jim Thomson, a former NHL enforcer, told CTV News Channel on Sunday that the news of Belak's death "shocked" him.
"You would have never guessed it," the Edmonton native and current minor league hockey coach said.
"He was a happy go-lucky guy. He walks into a room and the room lights up."
Thomson said that he himself had experienced fear during his nine-year career on the ice and that he often took drugs and alcohol "to kill the pain."
Thomson, who played for a number of teams including the New Jersey Devils and the Ottawa Senators said that "come Aug. 1, I knew I was just over a month away from bare knuckle fighting with 6'6 giants. Guys who could crush your face -- one punch and your whole career is over.
Thomson stressed however, that "everybody is different."
"This is me. I'm not saying anything about Wade or the other guys who have died but I've thought about many times of taking my life," Thomson said.
Belak, who last played for the Nashville predators, had only recently retired from the NHL and was in Toronto to film the third season of a hockey-figure skating reality television program.
News of the Saskatoon native's death Wednesday afternoon spurred an outpouring of kind words for the affable player.
David Poile, the Predators' general manager, said in a statement on Wednesday that the entire Nashville hockey team and family are shocked by the news.
"Wade was a beloved member of the organization, a terrific teammate and wonderful father and husband who will be greatly missed," Poile said.
Many also remarked that the 15 season veteran who played for teams such as the Calgary Flames, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Colorado Avalanche was poised to have a great post-retirement career.
TSN's Michael Landsberg told CP24 on Friday that Belak "could've coached, he could've done anything he wanted and most importantly he had things he wanted to do."
Belak's father, Lionel Aadland has expressed that the circumstances surrounding his son's death should be probed.
"We have no reason to believe there's a tie in to what happened and hockey at all," Aadland told CTV News Channel on Friday.
Shockingly, Belak was the third hockey enforcer to die since May, following the passing of New York Rangers forward Derek Boogaard and Winnipeg Jets forward Rick Rypien.
Boogaard died accidentally after consuming a mix of alcohol and oxycodone, while Rypien was found dead in his home. But with so many deaths in such a short time, some hockey insiders are pondering the toll that a career of an NHL enforcer takes on an individual.
Since the deaths, the NHL and NHL Players' Association said a review will be conducted on the players' substance abuse and behavioural health program.
"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," the hockey organization said in a statement.
The private service was held at Nashville's Woodmont Christian Church at 2 p.m. local time Sunday afternoon.
In lieu of flowers, Belak's family says donations can be made to The Andie and Alex Belak Scholarship Fund. Checks may be made payable to Woodmont Christian Church/Belak (3601 Hillsboro Pike, Nashville, TN 37215).