While the cause of Wade Belak’s death remains unknown, his unexpected passing, along with that of Derek Boogaard and Rick Rypien, have raised questions about the programs implemented by the NHL and NHLPA aimed at reaching out to players.
Along with lending a helping hand to current players, it’s also important for the league to work on maintaining an ongoing relationship with former players.
“With what’s transpired in the last few months, with the guys that we’ve lost, it makes us open up our eyes and look at programs and know that once guys are done playing hockey we just don’t kick them to the curb,” Nick Kypreos told Rogers Sportsnet on Wednesday.
We’ve got to come closer to the current players and the people who run the league and say: Once you’re in this fraternity, you’re in it for life.”
Former NHL enforcer Tyson Nash also lashed out via Twitter, alluding to the NHLPA’s shortcomings.
“Ur entire life is dedicated to hockey and then one day it’s all over and ur kicked to the curb! And the NHLPA does nothing to prepare u.”
Following Rypien’s death earlier in the month, Gary Bettman admitted the league was prepared to review its substance abuse and behavioural health programs.
“My guess is we’ll talk at the appropriate time with the players’ association, making sure that we’re comfortable with all of the mechanisms and programs we have in place, which are extensive,” Bettman told The Canadian Press.
Along with the substance abuse and behavioural program, the league and Players’ Association now need to focus on protecting those who don’t show obvious symptoms.
“I hope the people in charge have more pride in knowing that sometimes a guy might need a helping hand.”