I don't mean what I'm about to say as an indictment against Belak, or any of the other unfortunate recently departed NHL "tough guys." I also don't mean it to defend their actions as players, or the choices they made.
I mean to say only this. Hockey needs to reconsider its relationship to violence.
There is natural violence in hockey. Players skate at high speeds and, in the course of game play, run into and hit one another in pursuit of the objectives of the game: scoring goals, and preventing goals.
But there is a non-natural violence that hockey all too often encourages. This is the violence unrelated to the objectives of the sport, and that are too often lauded by people related to the game, from coaches, to players, to fans, to commentators. (In my personal opinion, all fighting, and all head-shots, fall into this category.)
It is imperative to hockey's future, and to the future health of players, to reconsider what kinds of violence are natural and even essential to the sport, and what kinds are not. And to rule absolutely out of the game those that are not.
I'm sorry to say that most of what I remember about Wade Belak involves the latter. I'm even sorrier to say that the most important thing I remember about Marc Savard is as well.