Dumbfounded. Crestfallen. Heartbroken.
All just words after today, all just meaningless and small and trite compared to what happened today with the untimely death of Wade Belak. Belak was found dead in a hotel/condo in Toronto today and all I can shout out through clinched teeth is why?
No answers will suffice, not in this mortal coil. No affirmation from the media or spin controlled by the powers that be. No closure for this blogger because of knowing what was in store for the world of Nashville hockey, the NHL, and every single life he touched.
I had a chance to meet the man at Predator’s Day at the Nashville Zoo last year with J.P. Dumont and Belak signing autographs. You could tell the crowd was leaning more towards spending time with J.P. but after the first people started shuffling through, it became the Wade Belak show. He would pose for pictures with the little ones, a tree trunk of a man with tribal bands and swirls going down his arms to wrap around 5 and 6 year olds. He posed with dukes up at Frat-daddies and meat heads with the same grin he has when he knows he’s about to throw down with an opponent and owns them. He exudes this energy and spirit through his laugh and carefree attitude that permeated the crowd that day and drew the attention of many of the news crews frantically calling him over to do an interview.
Even after the interview, he made sure to sign the article and take the pictures with those that went through the line when he was off-stage taping for the networks. His wife and two kids came out and he became the largest “ginger” jungle-gym for his kids to play on while still signing things for everyone in line. When I asked who he most looked forward to facing toe-to-toe in the upcoming season, he gladly responded with “really? I have to pick just one?” while winking at me and signing the little pink jersey I handed him for my little cousin.
I know that Belak will be missed especially by those who still root for him up in Canada, namely Toronto. He was the equivalent to Terry Crisp going into Calgary when he entered Toronto air space. A beloved figure throughout Ontario, Belak used his ties with the community and the NHL to provide many with support through outreach programs and invested time in every city he played in to help local charities. In Williamson County Tennessee, he was also a volunteer fireman once again confirming his selflessness within his community. It is a tragic day that sees a man of Belak’s character and caliber taken so soon from this earth. I send prayer and strength to his wife Jennifer and his two lovely daughters and I hope that one day I might understand why.