Wade Belak

Thursday, 09.01.2011 / 4:32 PM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's Summer 2011 Blog

Yesterday an email appeared in my inbox from Stu Grimson, asking if I’d heard about Wade. It touched off what I can only describe as a mental scramble as I frantically pounded away at my keyboard. I called Wade and left him a voicemail (Hey, this is Wade, leave me a message) in descending futility. As more and more people came over to my desk to confirm what I knew wasn’t going to turn out to be a hoax, my heart truly sank. And then I could only sit there and stare blankly ahead at my screen for almost an hour…

***

Our broadcast herd travels tightly together and you make friends quickly. TV and radio co-exist with players and coaches, but we are our own entity, our own pack on the road. Once Wade joined this pack he was welcomed with open arms – and really, how could you not like Wade? He was always joking around, always making other people smile. He also had a very good head for the game as we would talk in our morning meetings or on the air during the game, he really could break things down. He was learning the broadcasting ropes and was thankful and appreciative of the help we gave and advice offered. There was no ego, justwillingness to learn.

There was also enthusiasm in boundless amounts. Go back and listen to the games he and I did – whether he remembered to mute his mic or not (like the Buffalo comeback game) you could hear him clapping, shouting, and whoohoo-ing in the background when the Preds did something positive. We shared plenty of hugs, handshakes and hi-fives in the booth in the short time we worked together. It was great for me to work with someone who so purely loved the game and his teammates and was not afraid to show it. Wade was life out loud in many good, memorable ways.

Our whole broadcast family is missing Wade right now, and getting on a plane this fall won’t be the same without him.

***

I also remember that day in Buffalo because my family got a chance to come up to the press box there and meet Wade. I don’t get home nearly as much as I wish I could, but am still very close to my family. For them to be able to come and see where I “work” and know that calling a game in my hometown was so incredibly special for all of us was great. Then they got to meet Wade, who was gracious to everyone, made a few jokes, complimented me to my parents (totally scored points with my mom) and just chatted away with them like old friends. He certainly didn’t have to do that. He could have said hello and left, perhaps thinking I’d just spend the time with them. But he stayed and really made them feel welcome. I’ll never forget that.

***

When you get a new color partner or work any sort of job so closely with a new person, there’s a break-in period. In broadcasting when you talk over someone you refer to it as stepping on someone’s toes. Of course, the first few months you work with anyone less resembles a well-choreographed ballet and instead more like my awkward high school dances in which I simply tried not to crash into the girl I was trying to dance with while keeping her at arm’s length. And yet you still walk over one another.

Wade and I were working in New Jersey (and this may have actually been our first game together) when back-to-back we stepped on each other’s toes. Wade did it first and apologized, made his comment, and we went on. Later I stepped on his toes and apologized, and Wade said “that’s all right… (threateningly) just don’t let it happen again!” After a quick pause we both laughed about that one. And I knew we were going to be just fine with our mutual senses of humor.

***

It’s hard to fathom something like this when anyone appears to leave life before it was “time”. Looking ahead for Wade was what was sure to be a good career after hockey in media – who knows, with time he might have eventually become the next generation’s Don Cherry for the hockey world. He certainly told you what was on his mind, but did so in a way that conveyed his thoughts so that they didn’t offend people on the opposing side. Yes, he had a talent for being personable and expressive in a way that resonated and related to people. We felt like we could just as easily be Wade as he could be us. And we connected.

***

Probably one of the things that I wrestle with most is that Wade was just a few months older than me. I turn 35 this month, and for the last few year’s I’ve been determined to enjoy being the age I am instead of wishing I were something else as I did for parts of my 20s. When someone who was not only a colleague but a friend passes away and they are this close to your age, you can’t help but feel a shadow of vulnerability. It’s a cold hand that rests upon your shoulder and makes you realize that you mustseize what you have and make the most of it. We all struggle to make sense of the everyday, let alone the extraordinary… and when something happens that you will never be able to fully understand or explain, it hits that much harder. I’m going to listen to that little voice inside that tells me to fill my cup to the brim and always make sure I share everything positive I can with people. It seems the only acceptable way to deal with things right now.

The other nagging feeling I’ll always have is that Wade always made everyone feel better about whatever was going on… I only wish that somehow someone could have been there for him in the same way. It’s so strange to feel that “if only I’d called him yesterday maybe things would have been different…”.

***

My thoughts and prayers go out to Wade’s wife, children, family and friends. He touched so many lives, and I just wish that all of them find some comfort in something. Anything. I’m going to cherish my many memories of a man who always had a grin on his face and a joke for everyone, who always made you feel better, and seemed to have all the time in the world when you needed it.

I’ll miss you Wade. We all will.

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WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
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2 y - COL 82 52 22 8 250 220 112
3 x - STL 82 52 23 7 248 191 111
4 x - SJS 82 51 22 9 249 200 111
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12 VAN 82 36 35 11 196 223 83
13 CGY 82 35 40 7 209 241 77
14 EDM 82 29 44 9 203 270 67

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2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
S. Weber 79 23 33 -2 56
P. Hornqvist 76 22 31 1 53
C. Smith 79 24 28 16 52
M. Fisher 75 20 29 -4 49
R. Josi 72 13 27 -2 40
M. Cullen 77 10 29 4 39
C. Wilson 81 11 22 -1 33
N. Spaling 71 13 19 2 32
R. Ellis 80 6 21 9 27
G. Bourque 74 9 17 -5 26
 
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D. Dubnyk 11 18 3 .891 3.43

 
 

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