Former Predators enforcer Belak dead at 35

Wed Aug 31, 2011 7:28pm EDT
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TORONTO (Reuters) - The NHL's Nashville Predators were shocked to learn of the death of their former player Wade Belak Wednesday following local media reports his body had been found in a Toronto hotel.

"The entire Nashville Predators organization and family is shocked and saddened by the sudden and untimely passing of Wade Belak," the Predators said in a statement.

"Wade was a beloved member of the organization, a terrific team mate and wonderful father and husband. He will be greatly missed."

Local media said the 35-year-old Canadian, who retired in March after a 14-season career spent with Colorado, Calgary, Toronto, Florida and Nashville, had been found dead in a Toronto hotel earlier Wednesday.

Police would not confirm the reports.

Belak is the third NHL enforcer to die in four months, continuing a tragic leadup to the new season.

Winnipeg Jets center Rick Rypien, who battled depression for about a decade, was found dead at his Alberta home earlier this month at the age of 27.

Derek Boogard of the New York Rangers was found dead in May in Minneapolis, the 28-year-old's death ruled accidental and caused by a lethal combination of alcohol and painkillers.

Belak, picked 12th overall in the 1994 NHL entry draft by the Quebec Nordiques, recorded eight goals and 25 assists in a career known more for his quick fists than his scoring prowess.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue; Editing by Steve Keating/Ian Ransom)

<p>Toronto Maple Leafs' Wade Belak (L) knocks the helmet off Boston Bruins' Doug Doull as they fight in first period NHL action in Boston, Massachusetts, January 1, 2004. REUTERS/Brian Snyder</p>