Home > Off Topic > Off Topic: On Wade Belak and Assumptions

Off Topic: On Wade Belak and Assumptions

Yes, this is a Pittsburgh sports blog. But sometimes things happen outside of this city that are worth mentioning. When that happens, It will show up here. 


Correlation does not equal causation. Ask any scientist worth his weight in safety goggles and he will tell you that. One of the mortal sins of science is spotting a connection that is too obvious to ignore and then creating ways to prove its validity.

This is what is happening with Wade Belak, Derek Boogaard, and Rick Rypien.

I mentioned in this morning’s post that the lazy conclusion to reach when discussing the deaths (all likely suicides) of these three men is that since they all were the hard-hitting fighting type that this is relationship can be used to explain why they took their lives. That the years of trauma to their heads led to depression which eventually backed them into a corner that only suicide could get them out of. This is certainly the premise from which Mark Spector works when he says,

There is only one way to completely eliminate the mental angst, the drinking/drug problems, and the post-career depression that has dogged the game’s scrappers for as long as the heavyweight has had a role in the game.

That is to eliminate fighting.

Spector is a smart and respectable hockey writer, but he has leaped to a conclusion here that has yet to be supported by scientific fact. I will concede that it is likely these three men suffered from some amount of CTE, which undoubtedly led to some amount of mental anguish. But to suggest that fighting is solely to blame for their deaths is a conclusion that we do not yet have enough facts to make. There are hundreds of players who filled the same roles as Belak, Boogaard and Rypien who have not taken their lives. What are we to make of them?

The NHL and the medical community would do a serious disservice to the thousands of current and former players if they simply accepted Spector’s easy conclusion without a thorough investigation. Hopefully much research can be done on the brains of these three players. Perhaps the league will come to the conclusion that fighting should be banned. But maybe there is another connection between these three players that is less obvious. And maybe we should wait until we have a few more facts before reaching conclusions.

Categories: Off Topic Tags: , , ,
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  1. September 21, 2011 at 9:26 am

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