Former NHL player Wade Belak has been found dead in his condominium in Toronto. Belak, who played in parts of 14 seasons with five NHL teams, was 35 years old.
A source with the Nashville Predators confirmed the news. Belak finished his career with the Predators and remained with the team in an organizational role following his retirement.
According to reports, the cause of death was not immediately known, but foul play was not suspected.
In a statement Wednesday evening, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said, "The National Hockey League family mourns the passing of Wade Belak, who competed to the utmost every minute of his NHL career. Our hearts go out to Wade's loved ones, his friends, his former teammates and to all who feel the horrible void left by this tragedy.
One of those in the NHL fraternity confronting the loss was former goaltender and current NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes, who worked with Belak on NHL Network during the 2011 playoffs when Belak appeared as a guest analyst.
"The NHL is a tight-knit family," Weekes told NHL.com Wednesday night. "That's what makes this so devastating. You know there is a ripple effect for Wade's family and all the people he touched in his life as an athlete and human."
Born on July 3, 1976 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Belak was originally drafted in the first round (No. 12) by the Quebec Nordiques in 1994. After the franchise moved to Colorado in 1995 and was rechristened as the Avalanche, Belak appeared in 35 games for the team over three seasons, but didn't get sustained playing time until appearing in 40 games for the Calgary Flames in the 1999-2000 season. After splitting the 2000-01 season between Calgary and Toronto, Belak remained with the Maple Leafs until 2008, when he was traded to Florida for a fifth-round draft pick. In November 2008, Belak was dealt to Nashville in exchange for Nick Tarnasky.
He spent the remainder of his career with the Predators before being waived on Feb. 25, 2011. After clearing waivers, Belak announced his retirement on March 8, 2011.
Belak could play either forward or defense, and his primary role was as an enforcer, accruing 1,263 PIMs in his career. While his offensive numbers were modest -- Belak had 8 goals and 25 assists in 549 games -- he was considered an affable and easy-going personality who was popular with the Toronto media and among fans.
Belak was scheduled to participate on CBC's upcoming season of the popular "Battle of the Blades." Belak had hosted a short series on Canada's BiteTV known as "The Wade Belak Show." During his time in Nashville, Belak hosted a radio show on 104.5 FM "The Zone."
Numerous former teammates took to Twitter to express sadness and disbelief over the loss of their friend.
"Wade Belak was one of the funniest dudes I ever met," Predators forward Blake Geoffrion tweeted. "Just was with him earlier this summer. Can't believe it Thoughts and prayers to his fam."
NHL veteran Owen Nolan, who played with Belak in Toronto, tweeted: "I'm lost for words. Wade Belak RIP my friend."
The Maple Leafs released this statement Wednesday night: "The Toronto Maple Leafs are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Wade Belak. Wade was extremely popular with his teammates, the staff, and Maple Leafs fans everywhere. He was the consummate team player on and off the ice. He will be deeply missed in the hockey community and our thoughts and prayers are with Wade's family and friends during this challenging time."
The Flames also reacted to the news with a statement which read, "We are deeply saddened with the news of Wade's passing. We are proud that Wade wore the Calgary uniform and we will always remember him as a member of the Flames Family. We would like to express our sincere sympathies to the Belak family. This is a terrible loss of a vibrant young man; a man with great character who truly loved the game of hockey."
And the Predators released the following statement: "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 who 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."
1. Alex Ovechkin, LW
Outlook: Hope for his average season over last four years and he's a shoe-in for top fantasy player: 51 G, 104 points, plus-26, 61 PIMs, 36 PPP and 427 SOG (includes last season's 32-goal, 85-point "down" season).
2. Steven Stamkos, C
Outlook: Increased penalty minutes total from 38 to 74 last season and hardly took a step back in his third NHL season after a monster sophomore campaign -- certainly could reach 50-goal plateau again.
3. Corey Perry, RW
Outlook: Last season's only 50-goal scorer has increased points total in every season since joining NHL in 2005 -- also totaled 104-plus PIMs for fourth straight season and 270-plus SOG for the third straight.
4. Daniel Sedin, LW
Outlook: As consistent a scorer as you'll find: last season's only 100-plus point player led NHL with 32 multi-point contests and 64 games of recording at least one point.
5. Henrik Sedin, C
Outlook: Regressed from 112 points in 2009-10 to 94 last season, but has appeared in all 82 games in six straight seasons. Henrik might not shoot a ton, but he could be one of the few to reach 100 points.
6. Sidney Crosby, C
Outlook: Totaled 66 points in just 41 games last season and would be No. 1 fantasy player if not for health concerns heading into season -- expect top-10 fantasy production even if he misses some time.
7. Evgeni Malkin, C
Outlook: Consecutive 100-point seasons were followed by consecutive injury-riddled seasons -- dedicated offseason training regimen could mean a return to form for the gifted center.
8. Pavel Datsyuk, C
Outlook: Injury-plagued season limited Datsyuk to 59 points in 56 games, but strong playoffs (15 points in 11 games) has us believing he should be more than a point-per-game player in 2011-12.
9. Martin St. Louis, RW
Outlook: Has increased points total in each of last three seasons, with last year's 99 being the second-most of his 12-season career -- only knock is his inability to record penalty minutes (12 last year).
10. Henrik Zetterberg, C
Outlook: Unable to reach 30-goal mark in back-to-back seasons after hitting that mark four previous seasons, but his 80 points last season were most since posting 92 in 2007-08.
11. Ryan Getzlaf, C
Outlook: Led NHL with 7 games with at least three assists (next closest was 4). Elite production when healthy: '07-08: 82 pts in 77 gms; '08-09: 91 pts in 82 gms; '09-10: 69 pts in 66 gms; '10-11: 76 pts in 67 gms.
12. Henrik Lundqvist, G
Outlook: Our highest ranked goalie could produce best season yet on improved Rangers team -- last three years: second most games started, third most wins, 2.36 GAA, .920 SV% and 18 shutouts.
13. Roberto Luongo, G
Outlook: Faces questions after inconsistent 2011 playoff performance, but Luongo is a regular-season beast, with last season arguably being the best of his career: 38 W, 2.11 GAA, .928 SV% and 4 shutouts.
14. Zach Parise, LW
Outlook: Disregard last season's knee injury and look at the average of his previous two seasons: 42 G, 88 points, plus-27, 28 PPP, 356 SOG -- 50-goal season isn't far-fetched for the 27-year-old.
15. Jonathan Toews, C
Outlook: Will contribute heavily in every statistic except PIMs -- had 32 G, 76 points, plus-25, 25 power play points and 233 SOG last season -- all of which were career-highs except goals.
16. Brad Richards, C
Outlook: After totaling 91 points in 80 games in 2009-10 and 77 points in 72 games last season, Richards takes his game to New York this season, where he should team up with Marian Gaborik for plenty of points.
17. Ilya Kovalchuk, LW
Outlook: Last season's 31 goals marked first time since 2002-03 that he scored fewer than 41 goals. However, he finished strong with 17 goals and 31 points in his final 33 games.
18. Jarome Iginla, RW
Outlook: Bounced back tremendously last season by increasing points total from 69 in 2009-10 to 86 last season, and finished with 20 points in final 12 games -- may regress a bit, but he remains an elite forward.
19. Anze Kopitar, C
Outlook: At age 24, he's the focal point of a revamped Kings lineup. Kopitar could have his best season yet after tallying 358 points in 393 games in his first five seasons.
20. Ryan Kesler, C
Outlook: Last season's efforts should have been expected after he posted 75 points in 2009-10 -- likely won't score 40-plus goals again, but 80 points with tons of PIMs and SOG is attainable.
21. Tim Thomas, G
Outlook: At age 37 and with Tuukka Rask waiting for his turn, Thomas may see fewer starts this season, but he still led NHL with 2.00 GAA, and his .938 SV% was a new NHL record last season.
22. Pekka Rinne, G
Outlook: Over last three seasons he's averaged 2.33 GAA, .920 SV%, and is tied for NHL lead with 20 shutouts -- expect approximately 70 starts in 2011-12 with similar statistics to last season.
23. Nicklas Backstrom, C
Outlook: Likely won't match 2009-10 season (33 G, 101 points), but should return to 80-point form this season after slumping to worst offensive output of four-season career in 2010-11 (18 G, 65 points).
24. Eric Staal, C
Outlook: Since bursting into NHL with 100 points in 2005-06, averge numbers for last five seasons: 79 games played, 34 G, 41 A, 62 PIMs, 27 PPP, 309 SOG -- only weakness is plus/minus category.
25. Zdeno Chara, D
Outlook: Our highest ranked defenseman is a source of consistency -- at least 41 points every season since 2002-03, at least 87 PIMs every season since 2000-01 and 200-plus SOG every season since 2005-06.
26. Patrick Kane, RW
Outlook: Heated up later in last season's campaign (36 points in final 32 games) and finished with 73 points in 73 contests overall -- gut instinct says best season coming in '11-12.
27. Rick Nash, RW
Outlook: Scored fewest goals (32) since 2006-07 and recorded fewest PIMs (34) of career -- will likely be playing alongside Jeff Carter, which should bring a new element to Columbus, but can they co-exist?
28. Bobby Ryan, LW
Outlook: Notched career-highs 71 points and 270 SOG last season while also chipping in 61 PIMs -- numbers should continue to increase if given full-time spot on a line with Perry and Getzlaf.
29. Shea Weber, D
Outlook: He's scored at least 16 goals in all five of his full NHL seasons and has averaged 18 goals, 48 points, a plus-3 rating, 57 PIMs, 19 PPP and 242 SOG over the last three seasons.
30. Mike Richards, C
Outlook: Five-tool player should bounce back with new team after having arguably his worst fantasy season since breakout 2007-08 campaign -- expect a return to 30-goal form if he's on a line with Kopitar.
31. Nicklas Lidstrom, D
Outlook: Ageless wonder put together best season since 2007-08 last season -- with no sign of slowing down, expect another 60-point season and an improved plus/minus (minus-2 last season).
32. Dustin Byfuglien, D
Outlook: Might regress in goals and points (20 and 53 last season), but still should contribute plenty of PIMs and SOG -- his 347 shots last season trailed only Alex Ovechkin's 367.
33. Patrick Marleau, LW
Outlook: Totaled second most multi-goal games in NHL last season (10) and his 119 goals the last three seasons are the second-most in the League. And he's still just 31 years old.
34. Jeff Carter, C
Outlook: Three-season average has been spectacular: 38 G, 70 points, plus-17, 48 PIMs, 21 PPP and 332 SOG -- similar style to Nash could be a cause of concern and plus/minus likely to decrease with Blue Jackets.
35. Marian Gaborik, RW
Outlook: Netted just 22 goals in an injury-plagued 2010-11 season after posting 42 goals in first season with NYR -- now paired with Brad Richards, Gaborik should reach 40-goal mark with plenty of PPP.
36. Carey Price, G
Outlook: Tied for League lead with 38 wins last season, was third in games started (70) and shutouts (eight) -- shocked many last season, but prior to breakout campaign, career GAA was 2.73; can he do it again?
37. Claude Giroux, C
Outlook: Increased point total from 47 in 2009-10 to team-best 76 last season -- with departures of Richards and Carter, he's now Philadelphia's top offensive weapon, and should continue to increase production.
38. Ryan Miller, G
Outlook: Expect numbers closer to his '09-10 season (41 W, 2.22 GAA, .929 SV%, 5 SO) than his 2010-11 season (34 W, 2.59 GAA, .916 SV%, 5 SO) -- he could be one of the few goalies to start 70 games.
39. Dany Heatley, LW
Outlook: Arguably had worst season of nine-year career in 2010-11 (26 G, 64 points) -- losing playmaker Joe Thornton could hurt in trade from Sharks to Wild, but Mikko Koivu could also bring back his scoring touch.
40. Joe Thornton, C
Outlook: Recorded at least 86 points in previous five seasons until last season's disappointing 70-point effort -- PIMs aren't what they used to be and doesn't shoot often, but his assists and PPP will be there.
41. Alexander Semin, RW
Outlook: High risk/high reward player has played more than 70 games just twice in six seasons -- extremely talented, but his production dropped in every category except PIMs from 2009-10 to last season.
42. David Backes, C
Outlook: Five-tool player has similar skill-set to Corey Perry and re-discovered his scoring touch from 2008-09 last season: 31 G, 31 A, plus-32 (2nd in NHL), 93 PIMs, 211 SOG -- we believe in him.
43. Danny Briere, C
Outlook: Coming off career-highs in goals (34), plus/minus (plus-20) and SOG (246) -- with the departures of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, he should see more power-play ice time (3:04 per game last season).
44. Marc-Andre Fleury, G
Outlook: Averages 36 wins over last three seasons, and is coming off career-best 2.32 GAA last season -- subtract rough October (1-5-0 record, 3.35 GAA, .863 SV%) and last season's stat line would look even better.
45. Martin Brodeur, G
Outlook: Recorded first losing record of career in 2010-11 and also had second worst GAA (2.45) and SV% (.903) -- NJ blue line isn't what it used to be, but a healthy offense should help Brodeur get more wins.
46. Drew Doughty, D
Outlook: After breakout 2009-10 season, regressed to "just" 11 goals and 40 points last campaign -- elite offensive playmaker could challenge for scoring title among defensemen in 2011-12.
47. Marian Hossa, RW
Outlook: Has appeared in just 122 games over last two seasons, but healthy season could result in first 30-goal campaign since netting 40 with Detroit in 2008-09 -- loves to shoot and will have solid plus/minus.
48. Patrick Sharp, C
Outlook: After scoring just 25 goals in 2009-10, he bounced back for 34 goals and a career-high 71 points in 74 contests -- expect another 30-goal season with around 70 points and 250-plus SOG.
49. Keith Yandle, D
Outlook: Increased points, PIMs, PPP and SOG in every season since joining NHL full-time in 2008-09. His 11-goal, 59-point output last season put him among the League's best d-men -- expect more of the same.
50. Milan Lucic, LW
Outlook: After a disappointing and injury-plagued 2009-10 campaign (50 games, 20 points), Lucic rebounded to produce an extremely similar stat line to Backes last season -- 30 G, 32 A, plus-28, 121 PIMs, 173 SOG.