The deaths of Wade Belak, Rick Rypien, and Derek Boogaard this summer have prompted the NHL and NHLPA to attempt to determine “whether concrete steps can be taken to enhance player welfare and minimize the likelihood of such events taking place”, according to a joint statement from Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr. Both the league and players’ association have a lot of work cut out for themselves as the hockey world seeks answers in the wake of this most distressing summer.

Thursday’s official statement from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr:

“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.”

The common thread in the deaths of Boogaard, Rypien, and Belak is that all three earned a living by toiling as an NHL enforcer. Yes, the circumstances of each case are unique… at least in terms of the exact nature that each left this world, but we can no longer stand by and ignore the physical and psychological effects that the enforcer role takes on those that bear its burden.

This is the NHL and NHLPA’s opportunity to make real changes, whether on or off the ice (or both), to put its players in a position where they can effectively deal with physical and emotional pain in a way that’s conducive to their long-term health. We have three players dead and several stars just hoping to get out of bed without concussion induced headaches holding them back. Seriously, enough is enough.

Quickies

A private service for Wade Belak will be held in Nashville on Saturday. [The Tennessean]

Researchers at Boston University are studying Derek Boogaard’s brain. [CBC]

Justin Bourne on the loss of identity when a hockey career ends. [Puck Daddy]

A timeline of Alex Ovechkin’s summer. [RMNB]

Ovechkin signs endorsement deal with Nike. [Capitals Insider]

David Arrigo’s Pearl Jam goalie mask. [Darrigo]

Who to watch and what stories to follow with the St. Louis Blues this coming season. [Frozen Notes]

Mario Lemieux: 5 goals in 5 different ways