I woke up early this morning unable to sleep – the thought of last night’s news of another hockey enforcer who has tragically died in the prime of his life was weighing heavy on my mind. At 5am, I got in my truck and drove to the Gongshow headquarters to try and make some sense of the untimely deaths this summer of NHL tough guys Derek Boogard, Rick Rypien, and now Wade Belak.
What is going on in the hockey world I asked myself?
You see, the thing with hockey players is that we are a very tight knit group. I have always thought of the hockey world as not much different then a ecosystem – we all rely on each other to continue to grow the sport and pass on the traditions to future generations. Ask anyone who has played the game how easy it is to throw out a few teams you played for or name some buddies that play, and within a few minutes you will likely have a mutual buddy or two. That’s what makes this game special, and that’s what makes everyone so inter-connected – and ultimately I think why the NHL deaths of three fighters this summer really affected everyone in the hockey community – not just those that knew these players personally.
I know it really made me ask questions like why, how, and what does it mean? But in the end, there are no answers as we can never truly know what another human is thinking inside – but there are things we can do to try and avoid such losses in the future.
Back when Craiger (GSH co-founder Craig Kennedy) and I were playing Junior “A” together in the C.J.H.L in Canada, we had a team mate our rookie year that had signed a full scholarship to the US for the following season – he was a great guy, one of the best players in the league, ladies loved him and he was a great locker room guy- he seemed like had the world by the tail. Tragically, the following season we received news that while home on Christmas break, he had taken his own life. I remember being so confused; at 16 I had never really lost anyone that I knew – especially not that way. But the team pulled together, and we remembered him the way he would want us to remember him – full of life and on top of the world. Thinking back now, maybe the hockey world should have put more programs in place after a death like that, to try and save future lives – hind sight is 20-20 I know, but what is stopping us from making changes now?
I believe we should put some safety nets in place to try and catch some of the inner demons that swirl around some players in our sport – from the NHL all the way down to minor hockey. I think it has to start with the NHL in being the leader and making some moves in the next few weeks to put in place programs that follow up with it’s players current and retired and see if they can catch some of these issues before they end up tragically, like we have seen this summer. After the NHL, all leagues should look at putting programs in place to help our players and the hockey world to better cope – to be stronger inside, not just on the outside and to give players a outlet to talk about these things before it’s too late.
As hockey players, we always put on a “tough” face and it’s considered taboo to talk about serious issues one may be facing inside. This has to change. Think about it, we are best friends on and off the ice – if someone cheap shots your D partner in a game, your the first one in the play to protect him – you have his back right? So why don’t we help out our friends and team mates when they need us the most? The next time a team mate tells you he’s feeling kind of down lately (while sitting beside him on a bus after a game) – don’t go tell your team mates so you they chirp him about being “depressed etc”. Ask him what’s up, let him know that you have his/her back on the ice and off the ice. Hockey players are good people – there is no shame in helping each other out when we’re going through a bad time – be there for your team mates for matters like this and they will be there for you one day when you need them the most- let’s work on this in the hockey world, together as a team.
With the deaths this summer, we had alot of requests for a tribute shirt or hat from Gongshow for charity to remember the fighters we lost this summer and raise money for a good cause. I decided when I woke up this morning that although we are a small company in the grand spectrum, we feel like we play a big part of the hockey world – and we want to continue to give back and influence it positively – as the game has given us so much over the years.
Therefore, please see the link below to a limited edition t- shirt (roughly 250 ) we call “Drop’em” which features two fighters squared off on the front of the shirt – for every shirt sold of this style online until it’s sold out, Gongshow will donate 25$ to a charity (to be announced) that positively helps the hockey world fight these issues now and in the future. We would like you to help us find the best charity to support for this cause (please leave a comment below). We will keep you updated with how much money we raise and make a announcement when we donate the cash to the cause ( we need your help in choosing the proper charity so please do leave suggestions!).
The shirt can be purchased online in the USA and Canada here and we will make the donation on your behalf once all shirts are sold out: http://www.gongshowgear.com/canada/products/dropem.html (this is the Canada store link, click the USA flag to switch if in the United States)
Our sympathies to the family of Wade Belak , Derek Boogard, Rick Rypien and all the other players who have lost similar battles – this was the fight of their life that they couldn’t win – but we do have a chance to honor them and save future lives so lets do it Gongers – thanks for taking the time to read this and helping make a difference in the hockey world. If you have a story you want to share about someone you lost in the hockey world, please share it in the comments.
About Ger McNamee
One of the GSH Boys who co-founded Gongshow Gear , a Lifestyle Hockey Apparel company (http://www.GongshowGear.com)back in 2002 with two junior hockey team mates, and now acts as President of the company Macker along with the GSH Team is on a mission to spread the hockey lifestyle to all ends of the earth, believing that it is truly the best sport in the world on and off the ice. You can follow him on Twitter here http://www.twitter.com/gongshowgear