The NHL Has A Problem…..A Big One.


Today’s music video is one of the most perfect video montage’s made by the crew at CBC Sports for their March 6th, 2010 broadcast.  The song is called Everything Is Moving So Fast by Great Lakes Swimmers.   I think it’s the proper tone based on yesterday’s news regarding Wade Belak.

This has had to be one of the worst off seasons ever in any sport.  Besides the fact of it being a very long one, it has been one of the saddest as the NHL has lost three players in a matter of three months.  First the passing of New York Ranger forward Derek Boogaard, then Rick Rypien formerly of the Vancouver Canucks who signed as a free agent with the Winnipeg Jets,  and yesterday the passing of Wade Belak who most recently played with the Nashville Predators.  The one common thread among these players is that they all made their living as NHL tough guys.  However when you read or hear about their actions and personalities off the ice, not a bad or angry word was spoken, and all players were extremely likeable by their teammates.  As I type this I am unaware of the cause of Belak’s death yesterday, however both Boogaard and Rypien died of suicide, and it would be very sad if Belak continued that trend.

I have no idea what goes through someone’s mind when they’re contemplating such a tragic event, and I”m not about to start with any comments about it here, but I have to say that the NHL must realize right now that they have a problem. Whatever that problem is, it needs to be given serious attention.  Gary Bettman and company can no longer sit idly by without making some sort of program available to all players that need help.  I don’t personally need or care to know if someone is seeking this help, the important thing is that he get it.

I made a comment in a brief post after the passing of Rick Rypien and I’ll echo those words again.  Playing a game as a professional athlete is not all it’s cracked up to be for some players.  In hockey you’re not only fighting for your job to stay in the NHL, but you fight for your ice time, you fight for your place on the team, and in the case of these three individuals, your “duty” is to fight and defend your teammates.  This is besides the other pressure of winning.  Georges Laraque a former enforcer himself spoke yesterday on TSN Radio about the pressures of the  “role” that he and many others have filled in their time:

“Now I think people will realize the tough job of playing in the NHL and the tough job of being a heavyweight,” he said. “It takes a lot mentally. It’s really hard.”

He went on about the realities that come with punching your weight for a living in the NHL.

“When you retire after being a heavyweight for as many years as you played, most of those guys didn’t make [much] money, so there’s no options for them after,” Laraque said. “So, after you have all this pressure of playing and fighting for a living, now you have to fight to live when life after hockey is over.”

It seems that depression is one of the ailments that these players have suffered from.  Whether it’s too many punches to the head, or the pressure of the role they play, none of it makes much sense right now.  In addition drinking as well as the dependence on pain medication to mask the injuries and help to heal the battle scars can be contributing factors as well.

Whatever imbalance is going on an immediate plan must be put in place.  These athletes are way too young to lose and or end their lives.  The pressures of the game, and the roles that some of these players are put into could be too stressful for some. We need a plan.

It’s sad to have heard about these tragedies and even sadder that the family that is left behind can only  sit and wonder why.

Short of saying wake up NHL, the time has come to take this seriously.  Very seriously.

Thanks for reading. We welcome your comments and opinions.

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