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P.J. Stock has second thoughts on Belak comments

Upon reflection, P.J. Stock wishes he'd been a little more guarded when weighing into the death of Wade Belak. "I feel terrible talking about it," Stock said this week. "The situation won't go away. I feel bad for making those comments that maybe [are]leading anyone to any type of thoughts."

After the sudden death of former NHLer Wade Belak, the Hockey Night in Canada analyst went on Mitch Melnick's show on The Team 990 in Montreal to say that people shouldn't rush to declare Belak's death a suicide. "Let's just call it an accidental death right now. But he did die of strangulation," Stock said at the time.

That flew in the face of those who'd appropriated Belak's "apparent suicide" for a discussion of depression, fighting in hockey and other worthy causes that may or may not have been linked to Belak's untimely death. Stock took flak from media types for bucking the party line. Did the former Battle of the Blades participant know something no one else did about Belak, who'd been prepping for the coming season of the same CBC TV show?

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Stock declined to elaborate until Wednesday, when he broke his silence to Usual Suspects. Sounding hesitant and contrite, the former NHL tough guy tried to explain that, after listening to callers to Melnick's show "destroying Wade, destroying his role in the game and destroying hockey," he impulsively felt the need to offer another opinion.

"I had heard about other possible outcomes of the situation, and that's all that I meant to say," Stock said by telephone from Toronto. "I meant to say, 'Let's stop, take a few seconds, and let's not think of it as what you're thinking it is – 'oh, he's on drugs, he's on this and on that, that's why it happened.'... I said, 'I believe they're calling it an accidental death.'... No one knows exactly what happened in that room. There was no letter, nothing was written. Don't always jump to the negative idea right away."

Indeed, the hockey world was awash that day with contrary explanations other than suicide for Belak's death. Stock said he had no firsthand information, and that he perhaps didn't articulate his thoughts properly. "I say some things sometimes without the proper use of the English language," he explained Wednesday. "I just wanted to protect Wade, protect his family and his role in the game. Unfortunately it has snowballed into something like this."

Stock is not saying he was wrong, merely that he could have chosen his words better in light of the family's grief. He points out that Belak's family told the Toronto Star this past weekend that it believes his death was accidental. "For all intents and purposes, he did not do it on purpose. It was accidental," Lorraine Belak, Wade's mother, told Dave Feschuk.

Stock also regrets if his comments diminished other causes. "There's been some great articles about depression, and I know it's something that a lot of people are struggling with. So I hate that this keeps coming up."

CBC reaction

So how does CBC view Stock's foray into the Belak case without any appreciable evidence to contradict police?

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According to CBC spokesman James Lamont, Stock was not rushing to conclusions.

"If you listen to P.J.'s interview in its entirety you'll see that he was trying to do just the opposite, as people were rushing to paint Wade's death with a variety of explanations without having all the information," Lamont said.

"He was simply expressing his view on the situation. As we said at the time, our thoughts remain with Wade's family and friends at this difficult time."

Really? To us it sounded as though Stock took a stand, which is fine if he had sources and evidence. Which, in this case, he did not.

CIS feedback

We received considerable reaction here to our story about the new marketing efforts of TSN and MRX for Canadian Interuniversity Sport football. One theme was the inferior quality of statistical reporting and the CIS website. One reader pointed out how hard it was to find any radiocasts of games on the site and asked when the CIS will sync its scoreboards and gathering of statistics – as happens in the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

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Replies MRX president Scott Mitchell, also president of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats: "With MRX being the technology partner for both the CHL [Canadian Hockey League]and CFL's digital assets, I would look for a very impressive and state of the art digital asset for CIS football for the 2012 season. The challenge for the CIS, as with many digital properties, is money, but we feel it is an investment worth making on their behalf."

Life imitates bad art

Winnipeg Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien is another NHLer dealing with "issues." Byfuglien has been charged with impaired operation of his boat in Minnesota. Police there have suggested he might have been under the influence of drugs. Ick. Dustin, expect a call from New York City.

In what can only be serendipity, it turns out that before his nautical misadventure, Byfuglien was asked by a trading card company to sketch something for the back of a unique personal card. What did Byfuglien sketch (badly) for the one-off Panini American sketch card? A boat. Wait, it gets better. The winner of said primitive art put the item on eBay for sale. The card opened at 99 cents and topped out at $122.50. Our assumption is that this figure will not be sufficient to cover the fine should Jet Ski Byfuglien be found culpable on the charges. Just guessing.

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