The apparent Wade Belak suicide was obviously shocking news. Outwardly he seemed so well adjusted, so personable, so at peace with himself. That should serve as a wake up call to fans who think they know their heroes inside out just by watching the nightly sports interviews.
It's been a tough summer for hockey, with three deaths amongst it's clan. All three were enforcers, which has led to so many calls to end fighting.
But what I find concerning is how so many people are quick to link hockey fights and the deaths of three of hockey pugilists in Belak, Rick Rypien and Derek Boogaard. Bruce Arthur of the National Post offers the voice of reason, stating:
"Evidence matters, though, and there is no evidence that this had a damned thing to do with the fact that Wade Belak fought more than 100 times in the National Hockey League." He later adds "none of this means there isn’t a legitimate debate to be had over fighting, and the effect it has on some of the people who do it for a living."He's right. For all the speculation about concussions and steroids and other substance abuse, the only confirmed consistency between the three deaths are they were hockey fighters who all died.
Boogaard was apparently accidental, mixing painkillers with alcohol. Rick Rypien had long battled mental illness, long before he was a hockey fighter. Belak's story still has to see the light of day.
Another hockey player took his own life this year, and no one blamed hockey on that one. Tom Cavanagh, a minor leaguer and former San Jose Shark and Harvard University standout, ended his life. He was previously diagnosed as schizophrenia. Aside from the lower profile, the only difference between him and Rypien was Rypien was a fighter.
Yes, the dangers of hockey are becoming more and more apparent. But let's not use these deaths as an anti-fighting soap box when there is absolutely no evidence that hockey fights played a role in their deaths in the first place.