Remembering Wade BelakPosted: 01/09/2011
Hockey fans have without exception reacted with shock and dismay when last night former NHL player Wade Belak was found dead in Toronto at the age of 35. The former Colorado Avalanche, Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers and Nashville Predators forward was most known here in Britain for his time with the Coventry Blaze during the 2004/05 NHL lockout season where he was part of the team that won the EIHL Grand Slam of league, cup and playoffs.
I had pondered about writing my own blog on this but was struggling as to how to articulate how I felt. In speaking to a friend of mine, he wanted to write out how he felt about this situation and, as he has no blog of his own I offered to post his thoughts on here.
Paul Shipman is a Coventry Blaze season ticket holder, netminder for the Solihull Vipers rec team, British hockey’s only reported cyborg and, I’m proud to say, a friend of mine. Below are his words. I have not edited them in any way because at times like this, we need honesty more than we need poetry. I’m delighted and honoured to be able to put what Paul wants to say out there for Blaze fans, Bison fans and all lovers of hockey to read.
I always imagined my entry into blogs would be flared by some great inspiration or event. Something I was aching to share with others. It is, but an event like this is the last thing I wanted it to be.
I was sitting at home after watching the Blaze turn Cardiff over at the Skydome when I got the call from a fellow fan who was in tears, when I could understand her, what she was trying to say was simple.
It didn’t really sink in last night, and it’s only been today, as I talk to fellow fans and see the news reports confirming it’s not some hideous prank or reporting mistake, that it’s sinking in, that it’s real and he’s gone.
It’s strange to read the tributes from all over the hockey world to this giant of a man; we only had him as a Blaze player for a short time. I am honestly ignorant of most of his career and before he joined us I’d never heard of him, except the fact he was closing in on the all time streak for not scoring. So instead I’d like to share what Belak meant to me, as a Blaze fan.
Belak was a Coventry legend, and as a diehard Sens fan, the only Leaf I ever admit to liking. He took to the city and the club with an enthusiasm you rarely see amongst any player, let alone an NHLer playing during a lockout, He loved it here, and we loved him.
He embodied the spirit of the game, he wasn’t the most talented player in the NHL, or the Elite league that year, but he worked so hard it didn’t matter. His pride to be playing for Coventry was evident, and in a team that’s had its fair share of disappointing imports (Scott Kelman anyone?) I was great to see someone who didn’t seem bothered by what level they were playing at, but simply cared so much about how they played, wanted to work their arse off and win.
People will look at the recent events and call for changes and investigations. For things to be looked at, rules to be tweaked and people to be better looked after. Good, but to an extent today I don’t care, this week we lost a man who was Blaze hero on the ice and a gentleman off it, the hockey world is simply worse off for this tragedy.
He was the key piece in the Blaze grand slam championship team. In a number of crucial games he was the leader on the ice and a demon in a fight. What he meant to me was standing in the crowd, surrounded by friends and family, cheering on the best Blaze team I’ve ever watched. Seeing them raise each of those trophies, Wade cheering along with the fans and the rest of the team and sharing in their success, something which eluded him in his NHL career.
For those moments I’ll forever be grateful, thanks Wade.
If you want to give Paul any comment on what he’s written then you can get in touch with him on his twitter, http://www.twitter.com/cyborggoalie