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Former NHLer Wade Belak dead at 35

Wade-belak_350 Former enforcer Wade Belak, whose NHL career spanned 549 games, was found dead Wednesday in Toronto. He was 35.

Belak's death stunned the hockey world, which has been mourning the recent deaths of the Rangers' Derek Boogard and the Jets' Rick Rypien. Reports indicate that Rypien committed suicide, and the Toronto Sun, citing sources, said Belak took his own life. Boogard died in May from a drug overdose.

Belak finished his NHL career last season in Nashville, retiring in March after 15 NHL seasons. He was most closely identified with the Maple Leafs but also played in Colorado, Calgary and Florida. Belak was among the former NHL players scheduled to appear in the upcoming season of Canada's reality show  "Battle of the Blades."

Belak told Canada's National Post in an interview last week that he suffered from arthritis in his pelvis, so painful that it meant cortisone shots were necessary six times during his career.

 "As a fourth-line player, you sit on the bench for extended periods of time, and then you've got to hop the boards and go 100 miles per hour," Belak told the newspaper. "And that's what really, ultimately, led to the deterioration. It was just the wear and tear of doing that."

"The entire Nashville Predators organization and family is shocked and saddened by the sudden and untimely passing of Wade Belak," said the franchise in a statement. "Wade was a beloved member of the organization, a terrific teammate and wonderful father and husband who will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Jennifer and children Andie and Alex. We offer our full support to them at this very difficult time." 

Said NHLPA executive director, Donald Fehr:  "All Players and NHLPA staff are sincerely saddened and shocked by the passing of former member Wade Belak. His affable personality made him popular with teammates, fans and media, and he was a hardworking, respected member of the association. He will undoubtedly be greatly missed throughout the entire hockey community. Our deepest condolences go out to Wade’s family and friends during this very difficult time."

-- Lisa Dillman 
Photo: Wade Belak warming up before a Nashville Predators game in January of 2010. Credit: Associated Press
 
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