I was shocked and saddened to learn of the death of 28-year-old Derek Boogaard yesterday in Minneapolis. The 6-foot-7 enforcer played five seasons for the Minnesota Wild (2005-2009) before signing with the New York Rangers last year.
The Boogeyman was a fan favorite and my family loved him. We had the opportunity to meet him in person several times and his off-ice personality was a complete opposite from his tough-guy fighter image during games. Kind, soft-spoken and great with kids, his personal appearances were always well attended and appreciated by all.
A few personal memories:
- The player appearance at the old Hockey Lodge at the Mall of America (above), when both of my kids got personalized autographs and had a chance to chat with him after the lines died down. The kids loved his pink glasses and I’ll always remember the image of him tucking a Wild Monopoly box under his arm and walking away alone through the Mall of America rotunda.
- The night I went to Buffalo Wild Wings in Savage to get a signed “Get Well Soon” card for my daughter, which he happily signed, along with a “tell her I said I hope she feels better.”
- Watching the video of his goal against the Caps, breaking his three year scoring drought (234 NHL games). Made me smile all day.
- Hanging the life-size poster of Boogey and Butch in my office, which became a daily reminder of just how big he really was.
- Watching him pull up in his black pickup truck outside the restaurant in downtown St. Paul where the team would usually eat lunch on game days, leave it running in the cold Minnesota winter, wolf down huge amounts of pasta, then hop back in the truck and take off.
- According to the New York Times, Boogaard had 70 career NHL fights. I don’t know if I have a favorite, but here’s one against the prettiest man in the NHL.
The wonderful Star Tribune beat reporter Michael Russo has written an emotional blog post that has more insight into his life and the impact he had on those around him. My heart goes out to his family members, who I feel like I know after reading all of the Russo stories the past few years.
Rest in peace, number 24.Originally published by DK on May 14, 2011 at 10:10 am