Mike Zeisberger, QMI Agency
NASHVILLE — While many of Wade Belak’s friends and former teammates could not make the trek here to Music City for the enforcer’s funeral on Sunday, it won’t stop them from celebrating his colourful life.
Thanks in part to the efforts of former Maple Leaf Jeff O’Neill, a group of NHL players past and present will congregate in Toronto on Sunday afternoon to pay homage to Belak. Gary Roberts and Tomas Kaberle are among those expected to be part of the gathering.
“It’s just the chance to toast Wade, tell a few stories and share a few laughs,” O’Neill said during a phone interview on Saturday afternoon.
Like many of those who were influenced by Belak’s happy-go-lucky nature over the years, O’Neill emotionally broke down in the middle of a sentence while discussing the tragedy. He’s not alone.
“Why would I do something like this for Wade?” O’Neill said. “That’s easy. If the roles were reversed, he’d be doing the same for me.”
MESSAGE GOING YOUTUBE
Tie Domi’s efforts to help stop the mental illness known as depression started long before the tragic death of Wade Belak.
Indeed, when 14-year-old Daron Richardson, daughter of former Maple Leafs defenceman Luke Richardson, committed suicide by hanging herself last November, it left a profound imprint on Domi.
“I learned a lot from that,” Domi said on Saturday as he travelled to Nashville for Belak’s funeral. “It’s important that the message get across that depression can be beaten.”
To that end, Domi teammated up with his buddy Mark Wahlberg, the Hollywood actor, to shoot a video on YouTube, urging those suffering from depression — especially kids — to confide in someone when the walls are closing in.
“Whether it be your parents, your teachers, your friends, someone in church, if you have a problem, if someone is bullying you, you have an issue you need to discuss, find someone to talk to,” Wahlberg says in the video.
At the end of the piece, both Wahlberg and Domi say: “Let’s do it for Daron.”