Tragedy struck the Nashville Predators organization Wednesday, as recently retired forward Wade Belak passed away in Toronto, Ontario at the age of 35.
Predators President of Hockey Operations and General Manager David Poile received a call from NHL Security late Wednesday afternoon informing him that they had learned of Belak’s passing from the authorities in Toronto.
“It was not a good one,” Poile said of the experience of receiving the call. “You don’t get it, you don’t understand it, and none of it makes any sense. It’s a sad sad situation.”
Just a few months ago, Poile and his management team and coaching staff made the tough decision that Belak was no longer going to be a player for the team. What he thought was going to be a difficult discussion with the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native quickly turned into an easy one.
“I thought it was difficult, but he was fine with it,” Poile said. “He was really appreciative that he could stay up here. He was thankful that he had this long of a career in the NHL”
Belak’s affable personality made his transition from player to media member an easy one. At the tail end of last season, Belak joined radio play-by-play broadcaster Tom Callahan on the call of several games down the stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs. Next season he was slated to expand his role into the television side of the team’s broadcasts.
“I am shocked by the news and I am deeply saddened by the news,” Stu Grimson said. “This is a guy I consider to be a good friend and one that I looked forward to seeing more and working with him as a broadcaster as a fellow member of the Predators alumni. He leaves behind a beautiful young family.”
A former NHL heavyweight himself, Grimson also serves as a color analyst on the radio broadcasts.
“He was a guy that gave off positive energy when he was around,” Grimson said. “Funny, witty, he was really awesome. I loved that side of him. He was just a pleasure to be around.”
Former Associate Coach Brent Peterson was one of the front office staffers who had the tough task of notifying the members of the team.
“They were in total shock and disbelief at what transpired,” Peterson said. “We really knew nothing what really went on, but we were so saddened by his passing.”
Despite not playing a lot of minutes, Belak left an impression on everyone in the Nashville organization.
“Every day at practice, he did not get a lot of ice time, so he had to have a great attitude and work extra hard,” Peterson said. “He would do extra work and was just a great teammate. He was by far, with the players and coaches, the most popular player on our team. He brought us up when we were down. I am just in shock and I don’t know what to say.”