Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Losing A True Friend

Flags will fly at half-mast here at HBIC today. I don't usually give this space a lot of personal time, but today's article is necessary because HBIC lost a good friend and respected teammate this past weekend. Brad Drake, long-time hockey player and friend of HBIC, lost a battle that very few of us knew he had engaged in, and it's with great sadness that the world lost a fabulous human being this weekend. Brad and I had played together on a few hockey teams, and he was the epitome of what a good teammate was. When I say I'll miss the big guy, I say it with a heavy heart as I was proud to call Bradley Drake a friend. His smile, his laughter, and his mocking of teammates in a fun way will all be missed by this writer, and he certainly will never be replaced in any line-up.

From the Winnipeg Free Press obituary page,

"BRADLEY WARREN DRAKE It is with great sorrow that we announce the passing of Bradley Warren Drake on Sunday, February 26, 2012 at the age of 37 years. Brad will be lovingly remembered by his parents, Warren and Doreen, his brother, Wes (Jensen) and their daughter Makena, his grandmother Irene Van Damme, special friend, Gayle, as well as numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, extended family and friends. Brad will be sadly missed and fondly remembered for his love of hockey, football, sport jersey collection, movie compilation and vast book collection. After a great deal of hard work, over the course of one year Brad was able to lose over 150 lbs. and finish the 2011 half marathon in under two hours, an accomplishment that is still greatly admired by friends and family. Cremation has taken place and a memorial mass celebrating Brad's life will be held on Thursday, March 1, 2012 at 2:00 p.m. in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, 4588 Roblin Blvd. with Monsignor Maurice Comeault officiating. In lieu of flowers, if friends so desire, donations may be made in Brad's memory to the Canadian Mental Health Association, Manitoba Division, 4 Fort Street, Suite 100, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3C 1C4."
Like Rick Rypien, Derek Boogaard, and Wade Belak, this came as a shock to all his friends and family. Brad was always quick with a joke and laughed freely when the barbs were fired back and forth in the dressing after a game. As stated above, the family has requested donations go to the Canadian Mental Health Association. Brad, like the three fallen hockey stars above, took his own life on the weekend.

I have to admit that I never would have suspected that Brad was battling demons of his own based on his demeanour and personality. The weight that he lost was a massive accomplishment in his life, and it seemed that he was a brand new man with new found confidence in himself. He looked good, he laughed a lot, and he really seemed happy. Or so I thought.

You never really stop to think, "That could never happen to me or someone I know". It's hard to believe that Brad was in the same boat as Rick Rypien, another guy who seemed to be upbeat about his opportunities and future after signing a contract with the Winnipeg Jets this past summer. When it hits home, though, it shakes you to the core. Your foundation gets rocked in that you begin to question whether or not you truly know someone as well as you think and whether or not he or she is bring totally honest with you. I'm not saying that I'll have trust issues after this, but there will always be that lingering doubt as to whether you know the whole truth when asking someone a question as simple as "How are you?"

If I could go back and change anything, I would certainly spend more time off the ice with Brad. I feel as though I've lost a major part of why I liked going to hockey as Brad was always laying into me about various hockey topics. He was a really good guy, and I am saddened to have to say that I lost a dear friend.

Rest in peace, Bradley. You were always one of the best. I raise my stick in honour of your life, contributions, and abilities. As a note, HBIC will close shop tomorrow so that I can attend the funeral service for my fallen friend. I'll be back on Friday.

Until then, keep your sticks on the ice!

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