Belak was frustrated being pegged as fighter
|Wade Belak during Toronto Maple Leafs practice at ACC, April 27, 2004. Leafs will face Philadelphia in Game 3 tomorrow. (Alex Urosevic/QMI Agency)
A few weeks before he died, Wade Belak discussed his frustration with his role in hockey, in an interview with the Tennessean newspaper.
The former enforcer also talked about donating his brain to a Boston University study of deceased athletes, and added. "I hope it doesn't happen any time soon ..."
Belak said he felt nervous throughout his career before he was about to fight.
"It's this anxious feeling and, 'What's going to happen? Am I going to win? Am I going to lose?' " Belak told the newspaper in a story published Monday.
Belak, who played in 549 NHL games over parts of 14 seasons, died Aug. 31 of an apparent suicide at age 35.
In the interview he said it was frustrating to not be able to break out of the enforcer's role.
"The worst part for me every year was training camp because you always had new guys they're bringing in. You always had young kids that were trying to prove themselves and be the next new tough guy.
"Those young guys will always challenge you and try to take your job. The NHL, it's a business, and if you're not willing to do your role -- and everyone kind of knows their role when you're in the NHL -- if you're not going to fight for the team and do that, they will replace you with somebody who will and who can do it better."
After a few seasons, Belak said he was slotted as a fighter.
"The more times you fight you get put in the mould like, 'OK, you're our enforcer,' he said in the interview, which took place Aug. 3.
"Once I became a fourth-line forward, there was no way I was going to make that jump. There was no way I was going to be on the power play or kill penalties. You're just kind of stuck in this mould.
"It was frustrating because in the summer I would still train hard to get in the best shape I can, only to come to training camp and still be slotted in that same spot with the same ice time and not even really given the opportunity to play more."
Asked about the brain study, Belak said: "I definitely would love to donate my brain to Boston if they would take it."
Reporter Josh Cooper said, "Hopefully that doesn't happen ... "
And Belak interrupted, "I hope it doesn't happen any time soon ... "