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Mourners say farewell to Wade Belak

Nashville Predators General Manager David Poile and Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke...

Nashville Predators General Manager David Poile and Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke leave the memorial service for Wade Belak. (Mike Strasinger/QMI Agency)

Mike Zeisberger, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:38 PM ET

 Not even the sheets of pelting rain from Tropical Storm Lee could keep those who cared for Wade Belak from saying goodbye and paying tribute to his life on Sunday.

On a damp stormy afternoon in middle Tennessee, several hundred well-wishers slogged their way through the soggy conditions to the majestic Woodmont Christian Church in the east end of Nashville to remember a loving father, husband, teammate and friend.

And as the contingent made its way to the service, it was a veritable who’s who of the hockey and country music world that entered the building.

There were, of course, his former Nashville Predator teammates, most of whom cut their summer vacations short to be here.

For some, it wasn’t easy.

Star defenceman Shea Weber, for example, left Kelowna in the wee hours on Saturday to catch a plane to Vancouver. From there, he hopped on a jet to Toronto, then caught a flight to Nashville.

For Weber, there were never any second thoughts about making such a long odyssey. He wanted to be here.

He wasn’t alone. Far from it.

Preds general manager David Poile and coach Barry Trotz were on hand along with Toronto president Brian Burke. While Belak never played on one of his teams, Burke wanted to represent the Maple Leafs in offering condolences to the Belak family.

Burke was not the only Maple Leaf flavour in the house. Ex-Leafs Bryan McCabe and Tie Domi were present to bid farewell to Belak, their former teammate. Belak, in fact, was Domi’s roommate on the road for the better part of six seasons.

Ex-Senator Mike Fisher was accompanied by his wife, Carrie Underwood, just one of the representatives of the country music world. Indeed, Grammy award-winning musician Rodney Crowell, 61, performed as part of the service.

All the while, attempting to fight back the tears, was Wade Belak’s brother Graham, who was decked out in his bright red RCMP uniform.

They came from all corners of North America, all nursing fond memories and heavy hearts.

“It’s sad,” Predators forward David Legwand told reporters prior to the funeral. “Everyone knows how much Wade loved you guys and how much he loved the game.

“Like I said, sad.”

Legwand’s voice crackled with emotion as he spoke outside the church.

It would get worse.

About 30 minutes later, Legwand, Belak’s best friend with the Predators, was scheduled to deliver a speech about his buddy during the service. But moments before it was his turn to talk, he informed those in charge that he couldn’t.

He simply was too devastated.

With Legwand unable to take his turn, in stepped McCabe and Domi to speak about their friend. In the ensuing minutes, the congregation was told about how Belak was a loving husband to wife Jen and wonderful father to daughters, Andie and Alex.

When all was said and done, two points seemed to be clear.

First, the lives of those who knew Wade Belak will be less fulfilling with the jovial 6-foot-5 pugilist no longer in them.

Secondly, friends and family wanted to point out that Belak’s death has never officially been ruled a suicide by Toronto Police or medical officials despite the fact that his passing has been commonly described as such by media outlets and in public.

They have a point.

Belak, 35, was found dead in a Toronto hotel condo on Wednesday. Police would only say that the death was “non-suspicious.”

Whatever the case, the focus on Sunday became the family that Belak left behind.

To that end, Belak’s family said donations can be made to The Andie and Alex Belak Scholarship Fund. Cheques may be made payable to: Woodmont Christian Church/Belak (3601 Hillsboro Pike, Nashville, TN 37215).

Rest in peace Wade. You will be missed.

Judging by the overwhelming turnout to the service on Sunday afternoon, you already are.

 

 


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