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NHL's Gary Bettman, NHLPA's Donald Fehr release joint statement on three recent deaths

Thursday, 09.01.2011 / 4:11 PM / News

NHL.com

As the hockey world attempts to come to grips with Wednesday's shocking death of Wade Belak -- the third player to die this summer -- the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players' Association began the vital process of examining "whether concrete steps can be taken to enhance player welfare and minimize the likelihood of such events taking place."

Belak's passing comes just 16 days after the death of Winnipeg Jets forward Rick Rypien, who waged a well-documented battle with depression during parts of his NHL career.

On May 13, New York Rangers forward Derek Boogaard died at his home in Minneapolis after ingesting what officials say was a toxic mix of alcohol and the painkiller oxycodone. Boogaard's death was ruled accidental by the Hennepin County (Minn.) Medical Examiner.

Those three tragedies have prompted the National Hockey League and the NHL Players' Association to look into ways to help players, according to a joint statement released by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr Thursday afternoon:

"Everyone at the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players' Association is profoundly saddened by the loss, within a matter of a few weeks, of three young men, each of whom was in the prime of his life.

"While the circumstances of each case are unique, these tragic events cannot be ignored. We are committed to examining, in detail, the factors that may have contributed to these events, and to determining whether concrete steps can be taken to enhance player welfare and minimize the likelihood of such events taking place. Our organizations are committed to a thorough evaluation of our existing assistance programs and practices and will make immediate modifications and improvements to the extent they are deemed warranted.

"It is important to ensure that every reasonable step and precaution is taken to make NHL Players, and all members of the NHL family, aware of the vast resources available to them when they are in need of assistance. We want individuals to feel comfortable seeking help when they need help.

"NHL Clubs and our fans should know that every avenue will be explored and every option pursued in the furtherance of this objective." 

It's hard to walk into that locker room and look those guys in the eye when they've played -- clearly, that was our best game we've played in the series -- and I thought we deserved a better fate tonight.

— Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper on his team's 3-2 loss to the Canadiens in Game 3 on Sunday