I was never really “IN TO” hockey growing up, I never knew any of the mechanics of the sport or did I know any of the players except for the ones you hear about on the news. This past year changed that, I was blessed with the opportunity to travel with and cover the NHL’S Nashville Predators as they made their playoff run. On the plane my first time through was pretty hilarious. You see, these guys fly private to and from the games, and one of the rules of the plane is you have to dress in business attire. (No shorts, Tee’s, Flip Flops, Jeans or Tennis Shoes) So I am sitting their in slacks, shirt and a tie that I wear maybe once a month and up onto to the plane walks in Wade Belak, former Nashville Predator “Bad Boy” who’s sole purpose on the ice was to cause havoc, and from what I gather, he did it very well! So as we are prepaing to take off Belak stands up and looks around, he see’s that the door to the plane has closed, he looks around again and then… plop, he drops his pants right there, kicks ‘em off, rolls them up and shoves them in the overhead compartment, followed by his shirt. Underneath his “dress” clothes were shorts and a rock T-Shirt. He throws on his shades and lays down in the emergency exit for a nap. That’s just who he was, he followed the rules… well he bent them. He was a hilarious, outspoken and well kind hearted individual, yes, the brawler for the Preds.
In my short stint traveling with the team I got know Mr. Belak and the staff, a great funny group of guys who truly loved the sport and their team. Belak was there to do commentary for the broadcast, the press boxes were often filled with a smorgasbord of food. You would catch Wade slip out of the booth, grab a few snacks and head back in often.
One of my last nights on the road, after a Predator victory. Wade Belak, another photographer, Cory and myself went out for drinks to celebrate and celebrate we did. It was a fun night at an ocean front dive in Laguna Beach. Afterwards we went right up the street to an ALL YOU CAN EAT sushi restaurant. Together we ate more Sushi then any person should eat, all the while we heard amazing stories from all the road trips and tales of Wade Belak’s life growing up, and at the end of the night when I went to pay, Belak picked up the tab.
Several months later I saw Wade again on the red carpet at the CMT Music Awards, he came right up to me and said “Man, we have get together and get more sushi again,” unfortunately we never did.
Sadly today I learned that Wade Belak was found dead in Toronto, Canada. The report said Belak’s death was ruled to be an accidental overdose of prescription drugs. While I can’t say I knew Belak long, I can say he was a friend and truly a good, gracious soul. I thank you my friend for the laughs and the stories and know that you are up their looking down upon your teammates, friends, fans and of course your family.
Wade Belak (July 3, 1976 – August 31, 2011)
STATEMENT FROM THE NASHVILLE PREDATORS
“The entire Nashville Predators organization and family is shocked and saddened by the sudden and untimely passing of Wade Belak. Wade was a beloved member of the organization, a terrific teammate and wonderful father and husband. He 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.”