The NHL's Todd Ewen died from an apparent self-inflicted gun shot wound, according to the St. Louis County Police Department

By Maria Coder
Updated September 21, 2015 02:05 PM
Credit: Steve Babineau/NHLI/Getty

Former NHL enforcer Todd Ewen’s death is being classified as a suicide, according to the St. Louis County Police Department.

Ewen, just 49, passed away on Saturday. “It appears Mr. Ewen died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound and is being classified as a suicide,” Sergeant Brian Schellman, public information officer with the St. Louis County Police Department, tells PEOPLE via email on Monday.

A day prior, CTV anchor Amanda Singroy tweeted the sad news. “We’ve learned former #nhl enforcer Todd Ewen appears to have died of self-inflicted gunshot wound to head @CTVNews.”

In a separate tweet she noted: “Police are classifying his death as a #suicide. His family in #yyc say he was a loving husband & father @CTVCalgary.”

And in one more, she wrote that Ewen, who was also a children’s book writer and illustrator, suffered from depression.

The St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s office tells PEOPLE it’s currently conducting an autopsy and expects to have an official result in a few weeks.

Ewen was often called “The Animal” on the ice for his rugged skills, per FOX News. He scored 36 goals, 40 assists and 1,911 penalty minutes in 518 career games in 11 seasons with St. Louis, Montreal, Anaheim and San Jose. In 1993 he helped Montreal win the Stanley Cup.

While on the road between games, he’d use some of his spare time to write children’s books – a hobby he picked up to provide his own children with meaningful lessons. In Hop – a Frog Who Dared to Be Different, for instance, he wrote the story of a frog with the courage to be different from others, the Los Angeles Times reported in 1994.

After 11 years in the NHL, Ewen settled in St. Louis and mostly devoted himself to coaching youth hockey.

Tom Stillman, chairman of the Blues, issued a statement after learning of his death. “We are deeply saddened by the passing of former Blue Todd Ewen. Todd was an outstanding individual who called St. Louis home and continued to devote much of his time to the game he loved. On behalf of the entire St. Louis Bluesorganization, our thoughts and prayers are with the Ewen family during this most difficult time,” he wrote.

Brett Hull, who played with Ewen in St. Louis, tweeted: “I was proud to call Todd Ewen a teammate and more importantly, a friend. Can’t believe you’re gone.”

Ewen is the latest of a string of former NHL players to die early deaths in recent years.

In February, retired defenseman Steve Montador was found dead in his home at age 35 of unknown causes, though he’d reportedly offered to donate his brain for research over his concerns of concussions.

In a four-month span in 2011, Derek Boogaard, 28, suffered a concussion and died of an accidental drug and alcohol overdose; Rick Rypien, 27, committed suicide; and Wade Belak, 35, died of a suspected suicide, FOX News reported.

Ewen is survived by his wife, Kelli Ewen, and their children.

Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.