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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Belak, Kordic, Spencer; Toronto Maple Leafs who died young

Today's news regarding the passing of Wade Belak not only shocked because he was the third NHL enforcer to die this offseason, but also because he was the third truly colorful former Toronto Maple Laefs player to die relatively young. I'm leaving Bill Barilko off this list for two reasons. One, he was from an earlier era. Two, I don't know enough about him (learned this from a hockey card I keep tucked up under my 50 Mission Cap) to include him yet, however if I learn more, I may add him to this post.

I don't believe Wade Belak had the kind of problems that plagued Brian "Spinner" Spencer and John Kordic, which made his passing seem all the more sudden and premature. If there are other former Leafs who died young that should be profiled here, please make a note in the Comments section below.


Brian Spencer was drafted in the 5th Round, 55th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1969 NHL Entry Draft. On December 12, 1970, when he was called up to play with the Leafs in what would be his first NHL game on television, he called his father Roy Spencer in British Columbia to tell him to watch the game that night on Hockey Night in Canada. Spencer was to be interviewed between periods of the game. However, a game featuring the Vancouver Canucks versus the California Golden Seals was aired instead of the Maple Leafs versus the Chicago Blackhawks. Infuriated, Roy Spencer drove 135 kilometres (84 mi) to Prince George, where the closest CBC Television station, CKPG-TV, is located. When he arrived he ordered them at gunpoint to broadcast the Maple Leafs game instead. The station complied but as Roy Spencer left the station he was confronted by the RCMP. After a brief stand-off Roy Spencer was shot and killed.

After a few seasons with Toronto and the New York Islanders, Spencer was acquired by the Buffalo Sabres. Spencer had his best offensive production in a Sabres uniform when he scored 41 points (12 goals, 29 assists) in 1974–75. Spencer played well in Buffalo and was extremely popular with the fans at Buffalo's Memorial Auditorium. His hustle, aggressive play, and hitting ability was something the fans admired. Spencer developed into a solid two-way player. He would however be dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins in September 1977.

His offensive production fell as he took on the role of a checking forward with the Penguins. Spencer's last NHL season came in 1978–79 when he played 7 games for Pittsburgh. He then finished his playing career in the AHL (Binghamton, Springfield and Hershey) and retired after the 1979–80 season.

Off The Ice

While off the ice Spencer was often found working on his vehicle, dubbed "The Hulk". He began with a 2½ ton Army convoy truck and removed the body. Next, Spencer installed a 651 Cummins diesel engine and placed the shell of a 1972 Dodge van and hood of a Mack Truck atop. The dashboard was taken from a DC-3 cockpit, and all the gauges were functional. Brian also had a small black-and-white television monitor in the dashboard, which was connected to cameras in the back "sleeping" area of the Hulk. The hood ornament was a horse's jawbone.


After hockey, Spencer ran into some rough times. He submersed himself into a life of drugs and violence. In 1987 he was charged with kidnapping and murder and faced the death penalty. Family and friends, including ex-teammates gathered around him and tried to help him through those rough times. The lead attorney in the case was Barry A. Weinstein and the lead investigator was Leon Wright. Both men were members of the capital division of the Office of the Public Defender of Palm Beach County and in their years at the public defender's office, they had never lost a client to the death penalty. A former teammate from the Buffalo Sabres, Rick Martin, tried to help by testifying as a character witness at his trial. The jury deliberated and ruled with a not guilty verdict in March 1988 and Spencer vowed to change his life. However, despite the acquittal and a move to Florida, Spencer's life continued to spiral out of control. In almost a similar manner to how his father's life ended, Spencer's life would end the same way three months later: shot and killed at gunpoint, this time in a robbery following a crack cocaine purchase in Riviera Beach, Florida, with his friend Gregory Scott Cook at his side.

Spencer is survived by five children from two different marriages and his twin brother, Byron.

A book on Brian's life Gross Misconduct: The life of Spinner Spencer, written by Martin O'Malley, was adapted in 1993 by Atom Egoyan into a made-for-television film in Canada, Gross Misconduct.

John "Rambo" Kordic (March 22, 1965 — August 8, 1992) was a Canadian hockey player in the National Hockey League.

Kordic played for the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals, and Quebec Nordiques, for a total of seven seasons in the NHL. He won the Calder Cup with Sherbrooke Canadiens in 1985, and a Stanley Cup with Montreal Canadiens in 1986.

While playing for Toronto Maple Leafs, he wore #27, formerly worn by Leaf players Darryl Sittler and Frank Mahovlich. Kordic was known as an enforcer on the ice.

On August 8, 1992, after overdosing on drugs and being involved in a struggle with police at a Quebec City motel, Kordic died of lung failure due to heart malfunction. At his time of death, Kordic was 27 years old.

John's brother, Dan, played for the Philadelphia Flyers organization in the 1990s

Wade Belak (July 3, 1976 – August 31, 2011) was a Canadian professional ice hockey forward and defenceman. He was drafted by the Quebec Nordiques in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, 12th Overall. He played for the Colorado Avalanche, Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers and the Nashville Predators in the National Hockey League (NHL).

Playing career

In 2004–05 he played for Coventry Blaze in the British Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) during the NHL lockout. Belak won man of the match a number of times and was voted to the EIHL All-Star team at the end of the season.

Until December 4, 2007 Belak was on pace to set a Leafs record for most consecutive games without a goal. He went 143 games until he scored against the Nashville Predators.[1] Belak was previously featured in a Rogers Sportsnet interview where he jokingly admitted he was attempting the record intentionally. Despite his limited scoring in the NHL, Belak has scored on notable goalies such as Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo,[3] and Chris Mason.[1] Wade Belak was traded to the Florida Panthers on February 26, 2008 for a 5th round draft pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Belak was traded to the Nashville Predators in exchange for Nick Tarnasky on November 27, 2008.

After playing in 15 games for the 2010–11 season, Belak was placed on waivers on February 25, 2011. Going unclaimed, Belak was assigned to the Predators AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals, but decided on March 8, 2011 to retire and remain with the Predators in an organizational role.

Personal life

Belak was born in St. Paul's Hospital in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to Lorraine Belak and Lionel Aadland. At age six, his family moved to Battleford where he attended St. Vital Elementary School, Battleford Junior High, and North Battleford Comprehensive High School. He was described as a typical jock, and by 14, he was aiming to become a certified lifeguard.

On July 20, 2002, Wade married Jennifer Jordan Russell in Banff, Alberta. They have two daughters, Andie Marie (born July 23, 2004) and Alex Grace (born March 20, 2006), who were both born in Toronto. The family owns two Yorkshire dogs: Oscar and Macie.[6] In the summer, the family resides in Kelowna, British Columbia, where Wade enjoys golfing, bike-riding, softball, and water sports. Wade's younger brother Graham Belak played in several lower-tier leagues and was drafted by the Colorado Avalanche, 53rd overall, in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, although he never played a game in the NHL.

Off the ice, the Toronto media portrayed Belak as a charismatic, easy-going person who loves to joke , contrary to his aggressive style of play. He has participated in spoof interviews with Greg Ross of Rogers Sportsnet; Ross characterizes him as an athlete who has a sense of humour about his career. He also had his own segment with Leafs TV called "Wade a Minute". In 2008, Belak also hosted his own short form series on BiteTV called The Wade Belak Show.


At approximately 1:33 p.m. on August 31, 2011, Belak was found dead in a condo at One King Street West hotel and residences in Toronto, Ontario. Belak had been preparing to take part in the upcoming season of Battle of the Blades.

News: Friend of Edge 102.1 Dean Blundell show Wade Belak passes at 35

Sources: wikipedia.org, OJoeCollege.blogspot.com

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