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So long to the Boogey Man

  • Blog Post by: Michael Russo
  • May 14, 2011 - 4:56 AM

I don't know where I'm going to go with this blog to be honest. In fact, my cursor has been flickering in this spot for about three hours, it's 3 a.m. and I'm still sickened.

Even as I start typing now, my eyes are watering. So maybe that's my answer.

I'm supposed to be a professional, but I'm also human. In my role, you cover players professionally, but you get to know them personally. 

Like many of you, I was floored and saddened by tonight's tragic news. But I've thought about this a lot the last few hours, and I want to do my best to not make this a tear jerker.

I want to give you a different perspective to Derek Boogaard from someone who covered him. 

For those of you who have been reading this space for years, you know Derek was a big contributor to this blog just by his pure humor. Many of my mornings were spent just going over to his locker-room stall, leaning against the wall and shooting the breeze.

Inevitably, something would happen hilarious enough to cause me to pull the notepad out of my back pocket and begin to write funny quips down, usually barbs between Boogey and Niklas Backstrom or Boogey and Cal Clutterbuck.

"He clicks when he sleeps," Boogaard said. "He's got something in his throat that, like, clicks. It's timed. It's like one of those big clocks."

"Please," said Clutterbuck, "look who's talking. Mr. Snore-o-matic 3000 over there."

The back and forths with Backstrom were gold, and my favorite Boogaard story is when Brent Burns was all over Boogaard for snoring. I wrote about it, and the next week, Boogaard ran up to me all excitedly. Local-based company Breathe Right sent him a box of nasal strips!  Another great one was that Boogaard/Bouchard commercial they shot a few years back where Boogaard wakes up and tells Bouchard to quiet down so he doesn't wake up the sleeping fans in their hotel room.

I can still hear Boogaard's laugh or his baritone, "What's up?"

He had a sense of humor about himself, too. He was realistic about what kind of player he was. He never got offended when we asked questions about his lack of goal scoring. I used to give him grief about how he couldn't stop once he got a bit of steam with his skating, telling him, "Good thing the boards are there, or you'd wind up in the Mississippi River."

I still remember how excited I was when he scored that momentous goal Nov. 9. My brother's fiancee, Jaime, learned quickly what type of guy I was. As my brother and Jaime sat me down to ask me to be Best Man at their wedding, I was blogging about Boogaard.

One of the memories I'll cherish was walking around Manhattan all afternoon with him when the Wild was in New York in March. Boogaard was still out with a concussion he suffered last December, and he was at the point where all he'd do daily is walk around the city.

It was a great afternoon. We talked hockey, Minnesota Wild, Trevor Gillies' hit on Clutter, what he had been going through in a tough first year in NY and especially his family.

It's Boogaard's close family that I'm thinking about tonight. That's who I'm heartbroken for.

I think about his mother, Joanne, and sister, Krysten, who each smiled and snapped pictures when Derek sparred with his brother, Aaron, at a local boxing gym in Regina when I went up there a few years ago with photog Carlos Gonzalez for the fight-camp profile.  

I think about his father, Len, who I still remember walking around Universal Studios and getting on rides with Derek during the Wild's father-son trip four years ago. I think about middle brother, Ryan, one of the great people you'd ever meet. Like his father, Ryan's an RCMP officer in Canada by day, Derek's publicist by night.

There hasn't been a word written on the web or a fight tape involving Boogaard that proud Ryan hadn't unearthed and told Derek about.

I feel horrible for Ryan and Aaron, who discovered Derek tonight.

This blew a lot of people away tonight. I got heartwarming emails from fans and text messages from numerous players.

I spoke to Brian Rolston, who said, "We’re devastated by it. Disbelief, really. It’s just crazy. He was a great teammate, a great friend. He always treated my family and my kids with great respect. He was just a great kid."

Boogaard was one of a kind. He may have been a 6-8 giant, but he was as gentle as they got. Quiet, funny and a whole lot smarter than people gave him credit for when it came to league happenings, drafting and anything to do with the sport of hockey.
 
Like most enforcers, he wasn't some street thug. He was a good guy who realized what he had to do to play professionally in the NHL. And he loved that the fans took to him. He loved the prestige that came with being the BoogeyMan. It's why he pronounced his name Booooogaard when his last name is really pronounced B-OH-GUARD.
 
He loved kids, he loved doing charity work, from Defending the Blue Line, to the Police Athletic League, to Second Harvest.
 
Derek and I texted a lot about all sorts of things. I've talked to him a lot lately, a lot this past week via text. In fact, I nearly texted him this afternoon when I was walking down by his new apartment in the Warehouse District. But I knew he had just gotten back from LA with Aaron and I knew Ryan was coming in this afternoon.
 
He was so looking forward to the "3 Boogaards" hanging.

Derek texted me Thursday asking me what followers and following meant on Twitter. I told him, asked why he wanted to know, and he told me he met with a PR firm while in LA and planned to join Twitter. I told him to let me know when he launches, and I'd pump it up. He wrote back, "Perfect!"

That will be the last I'll ever hear from Derek, and that's killing me right now.

I've spent the night reading old Boogaard articles and texts.

Unfortunately, we'll never get to read his tweets. That would have been entertaining. He would have been a downright hit.

He was a unique person. He was a unique personality. And he was a unique player.

Sadly, Boogaard indeed became a topic on Twitter tonight in an outpouring of tweets from the hockey community. To me, that says it all.

Here's a sample:

BizNasty2point0 Paul Bissonnette
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

BrandonPrust8 Brandon Prust
At a loss for words. I'll miss my roomy Derek Boogaard.. You will be missed by everyone. Great friend and teammate

MichaelDelZotto Michael Del Zotto
Boogy, you will be missed! Condolensces to the Boogard family. The world lost an amazing friend and teammate!

Jeremy_Roenick Jeremy Roenick
I'm so sad to hear about Derek boogard!! He was tough as nails and even though I didn't know him I heard he was a great guy! U will b missed

b_ryan9 Bobby Ryan
Absolute tragedy, RIP Derek Boogaard.

GeorgesLaraque Georges Laraque
my condolences to the Boogaard family,Derek past away this morning,it was the thoughest guy in the NHL my friend and biggest rival

There were many others. Feel free to use the comment section to talk anything Derek Boogaard.

Rest In Peace Boogey

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