Toronto Maple Leafs

Suffering in Silence: Wade Belak Was Delightfully Gregarious

medicalLike many of you, I'm struggling with the fact that someone as likable and gregarious as Wade Belak would take his own life. As a die-hard Leafs fan, I knew him from interviews and appearances on television. Here's the Wade Belak I knew, appearing on Leafs TV with Jody Vance.

I see a young, happy, hilarious family man with every reason in the world to live. When Martin Streek took his own life, it was startling and puzzling, but Martin had battled demons. It still breaks my heart that Martin chose death, that he battled depression in silence, but Wade Belak's decision is even more baffling. Wade Belak was set to star on television, had a gig lined up with the Nashville Predators, and had two young children he adored. Wade Belak choosing death is beyond tragic, it's almost impossible to comprehend.

Over a year ago, I wrote about the stigma of mental illness and clinical depression. Wade chose to suffer in silence, smiling on the outside while hurting on the inside. Yesterday, Wade chose to end his suffering by taking his own life.

I can't help but wonder how things would have turned out differently had Wade chose to share his pain, talk about this disease and stop suffering in silence.

If you're suffering in silence, concerned about the stigma of mental illness and clinical depression, please talk about it in the comments. You don't have to use your real name, just share how you feel.

You're not alone.

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Wade Belak, Dead at 35

In MemoriumWade Belak was 35. He racked up 1,263 regular-season penalty minutes during a 15 season NHL career. Six of those 15 seasons were with the Toronto Maple Leafs where we enjoyed his sense of humour and friendly demeanor.

Here's Wade Belak vs Cam Janssen from a 2-1 victory over the Devils in 2007.

This sad news is just breaking, so I don't yet know the cause. I do know that we've heard about the premature passing of far too many NHL players this summer and this one in particular strikes close to home.


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Cody Franson and Matthew Lombardi Traded for Brett Lebda and Robert Slaney

leafsSomebody pinch me. Did we just trade Brett Lebda? Really?

And we got Cody Franson back? Really? Is this real life?

The Toronto Maple Leafs have indeed acquired defenceman Cody Franson and centre Matthew Lombardi from the Nashville Predators in exchange for defenceman Brett Lebda and forward Robert Slaney.

The deal also includes a fourth-round pick - Nashville will acquire our 2013 fourth-rounder if Lombardi plays 60 or more regular-season games over the course of the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, while we will acquire Nashville's 2013 fourth-rounder if Lombardi does not play 60 games during the next two campaigns.

I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that fellow Leaf fans will love this deal. Looks like a steal from where I'm sitting.


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Tim Connolly Signs with Leafs

leafsThe Toronto Maple Leafs have signed free agent centre Tim Connolly, formerly of the Buffalo Sabres, to a two-year deal that will average $4.75 million per season.

The Rangers landed Brad Richards while we scored Tim Connolly. I think Connolly has offensive flair, and I did like him enough to draft him in my playoff pool (thanks for the 2 points, Tim!), but if he's our first line centre, I think we're in big trouble.

When the Kessel / Connolly line is our 2nd line, I'll feel better.

Picture 4

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Leafs Trade For John-Micheal Liles

leafsFrom TSN, it begins...

The Avalanche sent the defenceman to the Maple Leafs in exchange for Toronto's second round draft pick in 2012. That draft pick was acquired when the Leafs dealt Tomas Kaberle to the Bruins last year.

Liles has been with the Avs for all seven of his seasons in the NHL. Last year, he posted six goals and 40 assists in 76 games.

The 30-year-old has 68 goals and 207 assists in 523 career games.

Liles has one year remaining on his contract at $4.5 million, with a cap hit at $4.2 million

I like it. What say you?

BTW, the Maple Leafs 2011/12 Season Countdown Clock is live. There's 104 days, 2 hours, 15 minutes, and 4 seconds left until the puck drops!

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The Pool Ends, Vancouver Burns, Leafs Watch Commences

StanleyI was glad the Canucks lost. Normally, I hate Boston, but in this series, they had my full support.

It sounds like more folks are talking about the riots than the series. That's too bad. If you want to see some amazing photos of the Vancouver riots, you want to visit the National Post.



In my annual playoff pool, I actually finished second. My brother Steve finished first. Good times...

And with hockey officially behind us this season, our Leafs watch officially begins. Go Leafs Go!

Go Leafs Go

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The Difference Between Leafs Fans and Habs Fans

Stanley CupI haven't written much about these Stanley Cup finals, but I've been watching. Truth be told, it's been tough to get into this series. I hate Boston, and want to root for the Canucks, but I'd like the next Canadian team to win the cup to be my Toronto Maple Leafs.

On Twitter, it seems the bulk of hockey fans outside British Columbia are rooting for the Bruins. The Canucks are an easy team to dislike. You can't blame the masses for turning on Vancouver, but you can blame Habs fans.

That's the primary difference between Leafs fans and Habs fans. No Leafs fan worth his or her salt would ever root for the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup finals. We'd root passionately for the other team, regardless of which one that is. Habs fans, at least the ones I follow on Twitter, seem to be cheering for Boston.

Don't Habs fans hate Boston the way we Leafs fans hate Habs fans? I realize these Canucks are pretty hateful, but there's no way Habs fans should be cheering for Boston.

I guess that's the difference between Leafs fans and Habs fans. We hate better.

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Why Won't Hitchcock Start Reimer?

hockey canadaKen Hitchcock is starting Jonathan Bernier over James Reimer in Canada’s quarter-final against Russia at the IIHF World Hockey Championship.

All Reimer did was go 4-0. Methinks Hitchcock could learn a valuable lesson from Ron Wilson...

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Possible Free Agents Who Could Be Coerced To Toronto

LeafsThe following is a guest blog entry, submitted by Michelle. If you have a story you'd like to contribute, don't hesitate to let me know.

Toronto made their annual late-season run towards a playoff spot, but the Maple Leafs still missed the postseason for the sixth consecutive year, and the natives are beyond getting restless in arguably the most hockey-mad market in the NHL (with all due respect to Montreal). The Maple Leafs require a center to put on their No.1 line alongside Phil Kessel, who has averaged 31 goals per year in his two seasons in Toronto with the likes of Tyler Bozak and youngster Nazem Kadri as his set-up men, and general manager Brian Burke will be looking high and low for a true pass-first center this summer.

Brad Richards of Dallas is probably the best option for Toronto to improve their NHL odds on the free-agent market, and he led the Stars with 77 points in 72 games this season. The Stars really struggled when Richards was out with a concussion, and that is the major problem: in this day and age of concussions, how much would Burke be willing to pay for a 31-year-old who has had concussion issues, along with a number of other injuries? Richards made $7.8 million last season and would probably want something similar, and Burke is adamant that he’s not going to overpay anyone.

The other options suffer from the same issues of injuries and age: Buffalo’s Tim Connolly, who was knocked out of the last round of the playoffs against Philadelphia with another possible concussion, and he’ll be 30 in a few days. He made $4.5 million last season, and Burke would probably be able to get him at a discount, but he’s not a No.1 type of player. Jason Arnott and Michal Handzus are 35 and 33 years old, respectively, so they’re out of the picture. Chris Higgins, currently with Vancouver, is 27 and a free agent after the season, but he’s been inconsistent throughout his career. Burke may have to try and pull off one of his wild trades, and it’s going to be a long and interesting summer in Leafs Nation.

Anyone want to take a stab at predicting which free agents are coming here this summer?

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Bill Barilko's Goal: 60 Years Later

leafsThere was no way I was letting this day go by without writing about what happened 60 years ago tonight.

It was April 21st, 1951, game 5 of the Stanley Cup final between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens. At the 2:53 mark of the first overtime period, Bill Barilko scored the last goal of his life winning the Stanley Cup for the Leafs.

The 24 year old defenseman perished in a light plane crash that summer while on a fishing trip to Northern Ontario. Not until his body was recovered 11 years later in the bush near Cochrane, Ontario, did the Leafs win another championship.

I recently received several documents from the daughter of Ron Boyd who was the helicopter pilot who found the crash site of Bill Barilko. I also recently conducted an interview with Kevin Shea, author of "Barilko: Without a Trace".

Video Of Barilko's Last Goal

The Call Of The Goal

This brief video of the goal gives us a listen as to how it was heard on April 21, 1951.

The Top Leafs Goal

Global TV's Jim Tatti tells us about #1, off the stick of Bashin' Bill Barilko.

Ken Dryden on Bill Barilko

Dryden tells us why Barilko's goal matters.


The famous goal
The Goal.

The final resting place of Bill Barilko
The final resting place of Bashin' Bill Barilko.

My brothers and I in our Leaf jerseys.  I'm wearing Bill Barilko's #5
My brothers and I in our Leaf jerseys. #5 Forever.

Bill Barilko
Bashin' Bill Barilko

Bill Barilko's goal remembered on a Maple Leaf Garden's Leaf Ticket Stub
Bill Barilko's goal remembered on a Maple Leaf Garden's Ticket Stub.

The card that inspired the Tragically Hip to record 50 Mission Cap
The card immortilized by The Tragically Hip in Fifty Mission Cap.

The Tragically Hip's "Fifty Mission Cap" Lyrics

Bill Barilko disappeared that summer
He was on a fishing trip
The last goal he ever scored won the Leafs the cup
They didn't win another until 1962 the year he was discovered
I stole this from a hockey card I keep tucked up under
My fifty mission cap I worked it in to look like that


He's our Buddy Holly, immortalized by the Hip's "Fifty Mission Cap", and scorer of the 1951 Stanley Cup winner for my beloved Maple Leafs. Every year, his legend grows. Here are some additional links of interest.

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