I’m torn between wanting to say something profound (which would require me to actually have something profound to say) and just wanting to recognize a really funny guy that everyone seemed to like an awful lot.
I think the latter.
Whenever someone dies, the tributes come in. What’s noticable about Belak, though, is that they always come with a story – people’s favourite memory, the best line he had or funny thing he did. He put forth a very lighthearted image and could make people laugh. He’d poke fun at himself or use himself as a vehicle to make light of things around him. His “Wade a Minute” spots on LeafsTV were fun and light and brought the viewer into the wonderful world of Wade.
My favourite of these is one I can’t find on youtube. The Leafs were looking for a new winger to play with Mats Sundin and Belak thought he should get a crack at it. The segment started with Wade literally throwing his hat into the ring. A ring (like one from an old lawn darts set) was put on the floor. Wade threw a Leafs ball cap towards it, missed right by a foot and a half and cursed offscreen. He mused about the skills he’d need to work on to play with Mats: shooting, passing, (pause) stopping. He felt that on Mats’ wing, he’d score 30 goals, 40 assists. “That’d be, like, 100 points!”
He scored a goal after going 143 games without one. He talked about phoning his mom and asking for the five dollars he used to get for scoring when he was a kid.
When he was traded from Toronto to Nashville, the speculation had been about trading Sundin. Belak’s first quote on the subject? “I blame Mats.”
Toronto always loves its tough guys, but it was this personality that made Wade something more than the average slugger. Somehow we failed to keep him.
Hockey has its issues. We can talk about them tomorrow. Today is for Wade. He’ll be missed. He leaves a wife and two little girls.