What to think of all this?
Derek Boogaard is dead, the Minnesota Wild still need a head coach, and the NHL Draft is less than six weeks away. Sometimes, you just need to step back and see what the big picture is. And sometimes, you just can't see the forest for the trees.
The untimely death of the NHL's Gentle Giant, Boogaard, will be the fodder of speculation for years. Not days, not weeks, not months, but years. The bespectacled, dapper son of an RCMP family, would turn from the kindest man to fans (especially kids!) to the absolute beast of pro hockey, the undisputed heavyweight king of the NHL, the one man that you, as the enforcer for another NHL team, knew you never wanted to face down mano-a-mano on the ice, for he would, literally and figuratively, beat the hell out of you. Not even helmets would save you, as several enforcers (Jody Shelley, D.J. King, Raitins Ivanans, just to name three) found out, as Boogaard destroyed their helmets, en route to destroying THEM.
The way he died is unknown. We may never know. He was found by family in his apartment in Minneapolis' Warehouse District last Friday, shortly after returning from Los Angeles, where he was preparing to join the Twitterare with his own Twitter handle. Boogaard, who just completed his first season of a four-season deal with the NY Rangers, had been concussed in a December, 2010 fight against the young buck Matt Carkner, of the Ottawa Senators, and had been held out the rest of the season.
A concussed Boogaard was an unhappy Boogaard, staying in his in-season Manhattan apartment, unable to do what he was brought to Manhattan to do; stand up for his teammates. He said it himself: the best thing he did was stand up for his teammates. He did it for five seasons for the Minnesota Wild, until his limited minutes could not be justified with the Wild's limited amount of talent, on the 23-man roster. As his Wild career waned, his minutes diminished. But he was still the good soldier, always the fan favorite, the first one to show up at a hospital to cheer patients -- big AND small -- up. It's no surprise that Boogaard's #24 jersey was one of the all-time best-sellers at the Wild's Hockey Lodge team stores.
How to sum it up? Do I really care to? It's tough when a life so full of promise is cut short. I always thought that Boogaard would have gone into law enforcement when his playing days ended (after he had that back surgery), as kind of a 'goodwill ambassador' for the RCMP. He probably would have scared Saskatchewan straight, all by himself. Alas, we'll never know.