Former Nashville Predators player Wade Belak's father confirmed Thursday his son took his own life in a Toronto condo Wednesday.
The news came as a shock to everyone who knew the 35-year-old father of two, including those who knew Belak's impact off the ice.
Belak played parts of three seasons with the Predators, but for the past two years he also spent time when he could volunteering as a firefighter.
And the time he spent with the guys at Station 22 in Williamson County proved to be valuable in so many ways.
"You couldn't go to another department and probably find any more hockey fans in one station, the way he did here," Cpt. Larry Sloan said.
When Sloan learned that Belak would be coming to volunteer at Station 22, everyone was excited.
"He was just funny, generally one of the funniest guys you've ever met," Sloan said.
And they loved hearing stories about all those knockouts on the ice.
"We try to get him started. Tell us about knocking out this guy, or something like that. He really didn't like to carry on that much, but you get him started sometimes and he would take off with it, just being one of the guys," Sloan said.
Belak retired from the Predators in March and was in Toronto this week taping for Battle of the Blades, which is Canada's skating version of Dancing with the Stars.
Thursday, his father told the Vancouver Sun that his son committed suicide, and that "it's disappointing that he would choose that option."
His father also said Wade was looking forward to becoming a broadcaster this season as a sideline reporter with the Predators.
Former teammates and friends took to Twitter to share their thoughts.
Nashville Predator Jordin Tootoo wrote: "Very sad to loose a great teammate and a better person in Wade Belak."
Mike Fisher wrote: "Still in shock! Wade will be missed by many! Great person gone far too early!"
On YouTube, there is a video tribute to Belak's life and legacy on the ice.
As for the guys at Station 22, Sloan says Belak made an impression on each of them, and they are paying tribute in their own way.
"He's going to be missed. He was a good guy and a lot of fun to be around," he said.
Belak volunteered at the fire station in Franklin because he was thinking about becoming a firefighter one day.
He leaves behind his wife, Jennifer and their two children.
Jennifer Belak released a statement Thursday: "We are overwhelmed and deeply touched by the outpouring of compassion and support since Wade's passing. Wade was a big man with an even bigger heart. He was a deeply devoted father and husband, a loyal friend and a well respected athlete. This loss leaves a huge hole in our lives and, as we move forward, we ask that everyone remember Wade's infectious sense of humor, his caring spirit and the joy he brought to his friends, family and fans."
Private services will be held Sunday in Nashville.
In lieu of flowers, the family is accepted donations to The Andie and Alex Belak Scholarship Fund. Checks may be made payable to Woodmont Christian Church/Belak - 3601 Hillsboro Pike, Nashville, TN 37215.
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