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A sad off-season in the National Hockey League continued Wednesday with the death of former Toronto Maple Leafs and Calgary Flames tough guy Wade Belak, CBC News has confirmed.


Belak, who played 15 seasons in the NHL with five teams and had retired on March 8, reportedly was found in the tony 1 King West Hotel and Residence, just blocks from the Air Canada Centre in downtown Toronto. He was 35.


Born in Saskatoon and raised in Battleford, Sask., Belak is the third NHL player to die in less than four months.


In mid-May, New York Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard, 28, was found dead in his Minneapolis apartment from a drug overdose, while one-time Vancouver Canucks forward Rick Rypien was found in his Alberta home earlier this month, a "sudden" and "non-suspicious" death, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Rypien was suffering from depression.

Belak, who maintained residences in B.C. and Nashville —where he last skated in the NHL for the Predators —was in Toronto to film the third season of Battle of the Blades, the CBC's successful reality-show mixture of hockey and figure skating, which begins Sept. 18.


"The entire Nashville Predators organization and family is shocked and saddened by the sudden and untimely passing of Wade Belak," read a statement released by the NHL club. "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."

The Belak family is not commenting at this time, CBC News in Saskatchewan reported Wednesday evening.




R.I.P Wade

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This is one of the worst off season for NHL. With all concussion injuries and deaths. Sad to hear that Marc Savard might not be able to play again and Sydney Crosby is still suffering from concussion. Can't wait for Oct. so we can finally see some games.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com<img src=" /><o:p></o:p>

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