Wade Belak only scored one goal after the NHL’s lockout, despite the fact that he was on an NHL roster during every season.
On December 4, 2007, while with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Belak scored a goal against the Predators’ Chris Mason…of course, it was about the most Wade Belak-esque goal that could have been written. You see, before the puck crossed the goal line, it bounced off of Greg Zanon’s face.
Belak was never known as a high-scoring skill player, but he still managed to be a fan favorite for pretty much any team he played for…some might argue that it was his lack of scoring grace that endeared him to his hometown hockey fans. Like any good enforcer, his fists had a lot to do with it.
While in Nashville, he was scratched from over 100 games during his two-and-a-half seasons on the roster, but he took it in stride. He began to join Tom Callahan in the radio booth on the nights that he found himself in a suit and tie at game time.
At some point down the line, Wade was planning on returning to school to become an EMT. Obviously, that never had a chance to materialize, but the time he spent as a volunteer firefighter gave a glimpse into the sort of person he was.
Few would admit it, mainly because few ever realized it, but David Poile won the trade that brought Belak to Nashville. When he traded Nick Tarnasky back to Florida, he acquired not only an enforcer, but also a community leader, a positive locker room presence and a team spokesperson.
He never scored a goal in Nashville and he only racked up 4 points. During his entire 15 year career, he only scored 8 goals and 33 points, but that’s not why he kept finding jobs. Wade Belak was never a scorer – not in junior, not in the minors and obviously not in the NHL. No – Wade Belak was on the roster because he was a presence.
In the end, regardless of what comes out in the coming days and weeks, you have a 35-year-old man who was old in the eyes of hockey, but young in the eyes of the world. He was a father and a husband and he was always willing to take a picture, sign an autograph, crack a joke or just make small talk.
When the answers come, they will come, but not today. Today, the only fact is that Wade Belak is gone far, far too soon.