NHL News: Canucks‘ Rypien and Predators’ Belak deaths eerily similar
When New York Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard died of a drug overdose a few months ago, hockey fans viewed the incident as sad, unfortunate and isolated.
When Bob Probert died and medical studies revealed severe damage to his brain, it got us listening.
Then, the concern over the life of an NHL enforcer worsened in August when ex-Vancouver Canucks enforcer Rick Rypien committed suicide. He was a victim of clinical depression and, like many NHL “tough guys,” fought as many personal battles off the ice as he did on the ice.
Rypien’s death really got us talking.
But now, after newly retired NHL enforcer Wade Belak was found dead yesterday, hockey fans, pundits, players and league officials appear on the verge of taking action.
The scariest thing about Belak’s death – also a suicide – is that he, unlike Rypien, was viewed on the exterior as a very happy person. He was known for being affable and funny with the media.
He already had a TV commentating job lined up for next season with the Nashville Predators, his final NHL team; he was slated to compete on the hit CBC reality show, Battle of the Blades.
If a guy like Belak was troubled enough to commit suicide, it’s enough to beg the question that the problem may be physiological.
In other words, something is happening to hockey enforcers’ brains after years of repeated punishment. We saw Probert’s brain after he died; we don’t yet know what kind of state Rypien’s and Belak’s brains were in when they took their own lives.
“I don’t know what’s going on … whether it’s a coincidence or not, but it’s time for the league and the players to review their policies and off-ice support. Players passing away in such a short period of time is very unsettling. – Jason Strudwick
Some of us never thought we’d see the day – but is it time to end fighting in hockey? In no other team sport are fistfights during games accepted.
They’re viewed as deviant, barbaric behavior and viciously punished. Yet hockey has always permitted it.
Is it any wonder that so many enforcers are suffering physical, emotional and mental damage from leading such lives?