Wade Belak, an NHL hockey star who, after retiring this past March, was due to appear in the upcoming season of the CBC’s Battle of the Blades, was found dead in a Toronto condo today (August 31).
Belak played with five teams over the course of his 14-season career with the NHL, including the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Calgary Flames, the Florida Panthers and the Nashville Predators. The CBC announced his participation as part of the cast for the upcoming season of Blades just over a week ago. The third season of the ice skating competition series is slated to begin on September 18; a CBC spokesperson has confirmed to realscreen that the premiere date has not been changed.
A statement was issued from Kirstine Stewart, executive vice president of English services for the CBC, which read, “We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the sudden passing of Wade Belak. We send our thoughts and condolences to his family and friends. He will be greatly missed.” The statement is also posted on the CBC’s Battle of the Blades site.
Belak talked to Canadian national newspaper The National Post about training for the show, saying, “The first time I went out there, I fell right on my face.” He also told writer Sean Fitz-Gerald that at the time of the interview, he didn’t know who his skating partner in the program would be. Blades pairs figure skaters with ice hockey pros in its skating competition.
It’s shaping up to be a truly tragic off-season for the NHL, with Belak being the third player to have passed on in less than four months. New York Ranger Derek Boogaard died from what was ruled to be an accidental overdose of alcohol and the painkiller oxycodone, while former Vancouver Canuck Rick Rypien was found dead earlier this month, in what the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has termed as a “non-suspicious” death.
Belak was married, and had two children.