This week in hockey news frankly is the pits. It started out harmless enough. I was all excited about the boys training at Camp Brind’Amour and we even found out that Zach Boychuk is alive and well in Raleigh!
Then news came out of the Bruins camp as GM Peter Chiarelli announced that center Marc Savard will not be cleared to play in the 2011-2012 season and most likely his career is over. Marc Savard’s body, mind and career; another casualty of repeated head injuries. Savard is the ripe old age of 34.
I was hoping this was going to be the only big bad news story of the week and I could ride on the high that training camp and the start of the season are shortly approaching. I needed to start researching my fantasy hockey team. Then news about Wade Belak broke. The 35 year old former NHL defenseman was found dead in his Toronto condo on Wednesday. He had just been announced last week as a contest on the Canadian reality show Battle of the Blades. Sources are saying it was a suicide. I choose not to speculate why he passed away. I only know that it is sad.
The news hit Twitter and tweets started flowing in from the hockey world. And then I saw a Tweet from a familiar name, a celebrity. I sort of groaned a bit at celebrities jumping on the sympathy bandwagon, and then I took a step back and read the tweet. It was from Candace Cameron Bure, actress and wife of retired NHL player Valeri Bure. The Bures and Belaks were friends.
"@candacecbure I’m beyond saddened by the passing of our friend Wade Belak. My love and prayers are with Jennifer, Alex, Andie & the rest of his family."
Enter a reality check into the world of professional athletes. Everyone is busy speculating whether or not Belak and Rick Rypien, who died on August 15th, committed suicide. Were their deaths related to them being depressed, concussed, enforcers? Theories are being bandied about. Rule changes and player support programs being discussed. But Bure’s message was sent as a friend, reminding us that Belak was a fellow human being.
And like any other newsworthy event, the trolls came out in full force. But some wonderful things happened last night as well. Tyson Nash, former Coyote and current TV color analyst sent out a simple yet honest message through his twitter (@TysonNash)
"Hard for people to understand but retirement is the hardest thing a player will ever go through. Nothing can prepare u for it."
He got a lot of chirping back about entitlement and not getting any sympathy. But he kept going and he gave us, in his 140 word snippets, small reminders that players are people. They have hopes, dreams, families and fears and have to figure out their place in the world like the rest of us. That’s right. He dared to speak as a human instead of a sound bite. For that I salute him. Instead of chirping him, stop and see what he had to say.
"Ur entire life is dedicated to hockey and then one day it’s all over and ur kicked to the curb! And the NHLPA does nothing to prepare u.People its my opinion from someone who has been through it. I don’t expect sympathy but it is an issue for retired players is all.Depression and heartache doesn’t discriminate! Money doesn’t = happiness. Job loss is terrible but I’m just airing an athletes view."
Hockey players are human. So next time you hear a story about a possible career-ending brain injury, unfortunate passing, or player’s personal problems, take a moment to remember that they are people just like us. You may be dealing them as commodities in your fantasy draft. But they live their own reality.