My Nephew , Chris Nilan and the Truth …

My nephew committed suicide.

Mike never played hockey … For that matter , he did not play any sport at all.

He was a sensitive guy , the type that carried the world on his shoulders. If someone was hurting , my nephew would be the first to come to his / her aid. His problems were secondary to those around him and this blessing ( curse ) was his downfall that eventually led to his demise at the age of twenty – eight.

The loss of a young man who was in the prime of his life. A life that filled with fun , adventure and general happiness. Outward happiness mirrored with internal sadness that few knew. A pain , a demon – call it what you will , it was something inside of him that made him more vulnerable to the attacks of everyday life that the majority shrug off with nary a glimpse.

Belak - Happy guy ?

Wade Belak was not a friend of mine. I know nothing of the man aside from viewing him on television and twice in person as he skated the ice surface in a Toronto Maple Leaf jersey. Belak was not Doug Gilmour. Wade was not the type of player spoken in the same breath as any of the stars in the league. He was a very passionate player and by all accounts – the guy who would stick up for his teammates through thick and thin.

Wade Belak was also the guy that everyone loved outside of the rink. A happy – go – lucky person. In other words – the last guy anyone thought who would end his life. In other words – my nephew Mike.

Mike tried to hide his demons. Drugs and alcohol were the masks that he sported on top of his real mask. Outside as a teenager he was Sid Vicious. On top of that he was Mother Theresa and deep inside he was Amy Winehouse.

Derek Boogaard

Derek Boogaard was a sensitive soul. The former New York Ranger and living person , was distraught by the way he was treated by the Ranger organization last year. Nursing an injury that kept the Ranger enforcer out for the majority of the season – Mr. Boogaard fought his way back through hard work and discipline to be ready for the play – offs.He was ready and able to play yet the Ranger management had other ideas and Derek was told to stay away and wait for the following season. No big deal ? Not for the majority of people who shrug it off without a glimpse yet devastating for guys like Derek.Tremendous for guys like my nephew Mike …


Rick Rypien ‘ s girlfriend was driving to watch her sweetheart play hockey when fate stole her away from the arms of the man she loved. Teammates and coaches noticed the sadness in Rypien’s heart. A normal hurt that lasts on the surface , a few months to a year. Inside , the hurt never leaves when someone who was loved dearly departs premature. Somehow , as humans , we learn to cope with the losses and carry on towards new dreams , goals and loves.Unless your name happens to be Boogaard, Rypien or Belak. Not if your name was Mike.

Mr. Chris Nilan – the heart and soul of the Montreal Canadiens from the early to late eighties , was no stranger to the world of the hockey enforcer.As the all – time penalty leader in the Habs history – noone knows better than ‘ Knuckles ‘ what it is like to wake up everyday with the aches and pains of a fighter. The aches and pains of a man who was hurt defending his mates night after night. The former number thirty was lost once his hockey career had ran it’s two minutes in the penalty box. Nilan turned to drugs and alcohol to mask his demons.Yet in Nilan ‘s mind – his demons and run-ins with the law had absolutely nothing to do with his role of an enforcer in the N.H.L . Nothing to do with the shots to his head or the many operations to repair a body beat up by injuries. Nilan’s demons were no different from any man whose career and identity were idolized by many and vanished in a heartbeat.

Mr. Nilan recently did an interview for Le Journal de Montreal. Chris pointed out that the three hockey enforcers who tragically took their lives this past summer – Wade Belak , Rick Rypien and Derek Boogaard , all had various problems and he adamantly refuses to believe that their roles in hockey were the cause of their demise.

Knuckles Nilan

What was the reason that Mr. Belak hung himself in a Toronto hotel ? Why did former Minnesota Wild player Rick Rypien suffer from depression for ten years ? Ten years we know of … ? Who if anyone was responsible for Derek Boogaard taking a lethal mixture of drugs and alcohol ? Was it the Ranger G.M Glen Sather ? Boogaard ‘s father … ? Perhaps it was the fault of his first love in grade school ? That girl who nixed his attempts of a first kiss down by the garden gate … ?

My nephew committed suicide.

Mike never played hockey … For that matter , he did not play any sport at all.

This story is for my nephew Mike and all the friends and relatives of any person who has taken their own life. 

Miss You Mike …

Love Rick xo

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