Belak's funeral to be held in Nashville on Sunday
A funeral for former NHL enforcer Wade Belak will be held on Sunday in Nashville, the city where the former Toronto Maple Leaf last played professional hockey.
Belak was found dead in a Toronto hotel on Wednesday afternoon; police are saying only that his death is "non-suspicious" in nature and that foul play is not suspected.
Just 35 years old, Belak is survived by his wife and two daughters.
"We are overwhelmed and deeply touched by the outpouring of compassion and support since Wade's passing," wife Jennifer Belak said in a statement. Wade was a big man with an even bigger heart. He was a deeply devoted father and husband, a loyal friend and a well respected athlete.
"This loss leaves a huge hole in our lives and, as we move forward, we ask that everyone remember Wade's infectious sense of humor, his caring spirit and the joy he brought to his friends, family and fans."
The Quebec Nordiques made Belak their first-round pick in the 1994 draft, though it wasn't until he moved to Toronto in 2001 that he became an NHL regular.
In addition to spending parts of seven seasons in Toronto, Belak also played for the Florida Panthers, Colorado Avalanche, Calgary Flames and the Nashville Predators.
Belak had only recently retired from the NHL and was in Toronto to take part in a skating-related reality TV show.
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.
On Thursday, the NHL and NHL Players' Association pledged that they would probe for answers in the wake of the three deaths. Both the league and the players' union said that a review will be conducted on the players' substance abuse and behavioural health program.
TSN's Michael Landsberg said that Belak was "perfectly cast for moving into the next step of his life."
"He could've coached, he could've done anything he wanted and most importantly he had things he wanted to do," Landsberg, the host of "Off the Record," told CP24.
He said the playing professional hockey takes a toll on players and the issue of depression is often overlooked.
"Even if you do go for help it's very complicated," he said. "You don't tell people how you feel."
Belak's father, Lionel Aadland, told CTV News Channel that the circumstances surrounding his son's death should be questioned.
"We have no reason to believe there's a tie in to what happened and hockey at all," he said. "Hockey is what he loved and it is what it is."
A private service will be held for Belak at Nashville's Woodmont Christian Church 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).