Mason: NHL, union must take action
|Chris Mason is still dealing with the shock of hearing about Wade Belak's death. (QMI Agency/Errol McGihon)
WINNIPEG - Winnipeg Jets veteran goalie Chris Mason says the NHL and the players union need to take action after three players died within a few months this off-season.
"We all have to take a look at this situation because it seems like there is a pattern developing here," Mason said after skating at the MTS IcePlex in Winnipeg Thursday.
"This may just be a terrible coincidence but if it's not, you have to find out warning signs for these things and take the proper precautions and treatments. It's definitely something that everybody is going to be taking a look at now and they are going to be doing everything they can to prevent this from happening."
Former NHL enforcer Wade Belak was found dead in a Toronto condo Wednesday. It has been reported that he took his own life.
This comes just weeks after scrappy Winnipeg Jets forward Rick Rypien was found dead in his Alberta home. Police said foul play was not suspected. New York Rangers tough guy Derek Boogaard died in May. Police ruled his death was an accidental overdose of prescription drugs.
"I don't know what's going on here but it's really sad," Mason said. "I don't know if there's any correlation between the three deaths but it's extremely sad."
Coincidentally, shortly after Mason made his comments the NHL and the NHL Players Association issued a joint statement about the shocking rash of deaths.
"Everyone at the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players' Association is profoundly saddened by the loss, within a matter of a few weeks, of three young men, each of whom was in the prime of his life," the statement, from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr, said.
"While the circumstances of each case are unique, these tragic events cannot be ignored. We are committed to examining, in detail, the factors that may have contributed to these events, and to determining whether concrete steps can be taken to enhance player welfare and minimize the likelihood of such events taking place. Our organizations are committed to a thorough evaluation of our existing assistance programs and practices and will make immediate modifications and improvements to the extent they are deemed warranted."
Mason was still dealing with the shock of hearing about Belak's death.
"I didn't play with him but I knew him," he said. "We did some summer things together. (Wednesday) night, hearing that news, it really made me feel sick to my stomach.
"Anybody that knows Wade knows what an upbeat, great guy he was. It really hit home for me because we played junior against each other, I knew him throughout hockey playing against him, we are the same age and he's got a wife and two kids, it's just an awful feeling. This is just another hit of terrible news and I just feel so bad for his family."