Saturday, May 14, 2011

Derek Boogaard, dead at 28

(New York Rangers photo)
Derek Boogaard (Regina, Prince George, Medicine Hat, 1999-2003) was found dead in his Minneapolis apartment by family members on Friday morning. He was 28.
A cause of death wasn’t released, but foul play is not suspected. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office has scheduled an autopsy. It could be carried out today.
Boogaard, who stood 6-foot-7 and weighed more than 250 pounds, was one of hockey’s first really large enforcers.
Sheesh, I can remember covering a Regina Pats’ training camp in the late 1990s with Boogaard on the ice, and he towered over the other players even at that age.
Of course, he came by his size honestly. His father, Len, an RCMP officer, is 6-foot-4, while mother Joanne is 6-foot-3.
One brother, Aaron, also played in the WHL (Calgary, Tri-City, 2002-07) and spent this season with the Central league’s Laredo Bucks. Another brother, Ryan, is an RCMP officer. A sister, Krysten, is a senior at the U of Kansas where, at 6-foot-5, she played for the Jayhawks women’s basketball team.
In 174 WHL games, Derek had 21 points, including three goals, and 670 penalty minutes. He played in 277 NHL games, picking up 16 points, three of them goals, and 589 penalty minutes.
He was a seventh-round selection by the Minnesota Wild in the 2001 NHL draft.
Boogaard played five seasons with the Wild before signing as a free agent with the New York Rangers for US$6.5 million over four years. He played 22 games this season before suffering what turned out to be a season-ending concussion on Dec. 9 in a scrap with Matt Carkner of the host Ottawa Senators. Boogaard also was left with a shoulder injury.
On Nov. 9, he had ended a 234-game goalless drought by scoring against the Washington Capitals.
Asked by the New York Daily News about how he became a hockey enforcer, Boogaard replied:
"It started when I was 14 or 15. I was in juniors — Regina rookie camp, mini-camp and all that stuff. Their so-called tough guy or whatever got into it with me in one of the scrimmages, and I just dropped the gloves, and I put his nose on the side of his face. It happens, you know?"
Four years ago, Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post talked with Boogaard. That piece is right here.
There was another side to Boogaard, too, and the Rangers touched on it in a news release that was issued last night:
“Boogaard was a supporter of the Defending the Blue Line Foundation, a non-profit charitable foundation whose mission is to ensure that children of military members are afforded every opportunity to participate in the great sport of hockey.
“While with the Rangers, he created ‘Boogaard’s Booguardians,’ hosting military members and their families at all New York Ranger home games. In addition, he made multiple appearances with partner organizations of the Garden of Dreams Foundation, the non-profit charity that works closely with all areas of Madison Square Garden, including the New York Knicks, Rangers, Liberty, MSG Media, MSG Entertainment and Fuse ‘to make dreams come true for kids facing obstacles’.”
It didn’t take long after news of Boogaard’s death broke for the Twitterverse to explode:
Paul Bissonnette, a tough guy with the Phoenix Coyotes, tweeted: “Had to call my folks after hearing that awful news. Derek Boogard you were pure nails on the ice, and an even better person off. R.I.P.”
Ryan Whitney, a defenceman with the Edmonton Oilers:
“Awful news about Derek Boogaard. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”
Brent Parker, president of the Regina Pats (he was GM when Boogaard was in the Pats’ camp):
“I remember the first time I watched Boogey play. Melfort vs Rosetown bantams. Me and (Pats head scout Todd Ripplinger), Derek was a foot taller than every kid on ice!”
Michael Del Zotto, New York Rangers defenceman:
"Boogy, you will be missed! Condolences to the Boogaard family. The world lost an amazing friend and teammate!''
Wes Walz, former Minnesota Wild teammate:
“Sat beside Boogy for a few years in dressing room. Great teammate but even a better person!!! A true gentle giant. RIP my good friend.”
Brandon Prust, New York Rangers forward:
“At a loss for words. I'll miss my roomy Derek Boogaard. You will be missed by everyone. Great friend and teammate.”
Jim Matheson, Edmonton Journal hockey writer:
“Ex heavy Georges Laraque talked to Boogaard 2 days ago. "We planned on training together in Regina this summer. In total shock. So saddened."
Taking Note on Twitter

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