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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Let Derek Actually RIP

Maybe Derek Boogaard did die of the cumulative effects of right hooks and left jabs.

Maybe he died of an enlarged heart, as so many other young athletes have in recent years.

Maybe Derek Boogaard died because it was simply his time.
While we wait a few weeks for a maybe to become reality, we should let the 28-year-old enforcer be.  Let his family, friends and former teammates mourn his passing.  Let the Hennepin County medical examiner's office do its job.  Let all that happen before we jump to any conclusion and use Boogard as the poster boy for our anti-fighting or pro-concussion-reform argument.

Yes, Boogaard missed the final 52 Ranger games this season because of a concussion suffered in a December 9th fight with Ottawa's Matt Carkner.  Sure, his 69 previous NHL fights could have caused similar damage.  Maybe Boogaard's brain, which his family has donated to Boston University researchers, will show signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) like the brains of Bob Probert and Reggie Fleming, two other tough guys that died too soon.

But literally anything could've happened to Boogaard Friday in his Minneapolis apartment.  So hit the pause button on your sermon and listen to his teammate, Brandon Prust: "Though he was a fighter on the ice, he was definitely a gentle giant off the ice.  He was just a real good guy, a team guy all the way.  I've been looking at some of the silly pictures I have from when we were roommates and it just hits me what a good guy he was.  I still can't believe I am referring to him in the past tense.”

Or Marian Gaborik, who played with Boogard in New York and Minnesota: “He was one of the very best at what he did.  Every team would have loved to have him, whether on the ice or off the ice as a great teammate.”

“He was a year younger than me, and you could see that he improved so much.  But he always was such a calm guy, got along with everybody.  We had a lot of good times together.  He was a really easy going guy, really caring. We talked pretty much about everything.  He's just the type guy who would be there for you whenever you needed him."

Boogard didn't score 30 goals.  He didn't anchor anyone's power play or take important face-offs in the defensive zone.  He literally fought for his teammates.  And did whatever he could to improve himself as a hockey player.

For that, Boogaard deserves our patience and respect.  He doesn't deserve to be pulled onto anyone's soap box.


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