Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Posts about Bears

Projecting the 2014 U.S. Olympic men's hockey roster

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: August 27, 2013 - 1:12 PM

 

The U.S. orientation camp in Virginia is coming to an end today. This morning was a public day at the rink where fans could get player autographs and got to witness the jersey unveiling for the 2014 men, women and sled hockey teams.

 
The jersey can be seen here. Tonight, the team of 48 will be taking in the Washington Nationals-Florida (OK, Miami) Marlins game. I’ll be there, too.
 
Very fun, productive few days here with incredible access to laid back, talkative players. Much of the stuff I put in my holster and will hold for myriad training camp stories and Olympic advances.
 
My article in Wednesday’s newspaper has a Minnesota flair, so check that out. Some of the folks quoted in there are David Backes, Zach Parise, former Wild coach Todd Richards, Paul Martin, Big Buff, Jake Gardiner and non Minnesotan but Minnesota part-time resident JVR – James van Riemsdyk.
 
Speaking of Big Buff, Dustin Byfuglien, he had a couple good lines. Byfuglien, a native of Roseau, attended the 2009 orientation camp but didn’t make the team. The hulk of a Winnipeg Jet blue liner who played forward as a Chicago Blackhawk was asked what he has learned since.
 
He deadpanned, “I learned that I wasn’t a forward.”
 
Former Gopher Blake Wheeler, also a Jet, also had a funny line when we jokingly asked him if the Americans were already behind the Canadians because of Mike Babcock’s ball hockey game: “I’d argue that we’re ahead,” Wheeler cracked.
 
Minnesota had 14 players here. Still, USA Hockey has done a marvelous job expanding its roots throughout the United States. Players from 13 states were represented.
 
“There was a time these teams were picked from the three M’s – Minnesota, Michigan and Massachusetts,” said Brian Burke, the U.S. director of player development, who grew up in Edina.
 
Minnetonka’s Gardiner, who plays for Toronto, talked a lot about how much this season is essentially a tryout for many of the young players. GM David Poile talked a lot today about how half the team is virtually a lock barring health and how he told the players “this will be the toughest team you’ll ever have to make” and these will be the “toughest decisions we ever have to make.”
 
Coach Dan Bylsma said today that the most likely scenario will be to take 14 forwards, eight defensemen and three goalies to Sochi. So barring health, what would your team be? I’ll put whom I consider the locks and then the candidates:
 
Forwards:
 
Locks (10) – Zach Parise, Dustin Brown, Patrick Kane, Joe Pavelski, Phil Kessel, David Backes, Ryan Kesler, Ryan Callahan, Bobby Ryan, Derek Stepan.
 
Candidates (4) – Max Pacioretty, T.J. Oshie (I think they take one of Pacioretty and Oshie, and Bylsma loves that Backes and Oshie have killed penalties together for “years”), Paul Stastny (U.S. is short centers and he had 15 points in the world championships), James van Riemsdyk, Kyle Okposo, Blake Wheeler, Kyle Palmieri, Brandon Saad, Craig Smith, Nick Bjugstad, Justin Abdelkader, Beau Bennett, Alex Galchenyuk, Trevor Lewis.
 
* Poile said yesterday the Wild’s Jason Pominville is “back on the board” and will be scouted throughout October-December.
 
Defensemen:
 
Locks (6) – Ryan Suter, Dustin Byfuglien, Ryan McDonagh, Jack Johnson, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik (Bylsma noted Martin/Orpik chemistry/PK experience).
 
Candidates (2) – John Carlson (very good chance), Keith Yandle, Justin Faulk, Jake Gardiner, Cam Fowler, Nick Leddy, Erik Johnson, Kevin Shattenkirk, Zach Bogosian, Danny Dekeyser, Seth Jones, Jacob Trouba.
 
Goalies:
 
Lock (1) – Jonathan Quick.
 
Candidates (2) – Ryan Miller, Craig Anderson, Jimmy Howard, Corey Schneider, John Gibson.
 
Have at it.
 
Reminder, on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. at the Star Tribune booth at the State Fair, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher will be joining me to take questions from myself and Wild fans. Please stop by.
 
Also, the Wild announced an affiliation agreement with the Quad City Mallards in the Central Hockey League (CHL) today. Obviously, all its top professional prospects and minor-leaguers will be in Iowa of the AHL. The Wild also has an affiliation agreement with the Orlando Solar Bears in the ECHL.
 

Granlund soaring; Solar Bears win 1st home game in 11 years; Gophers slip to No.2; Fehr's latest letter

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: October 22, 2012 - 1:21 PM

Good weekend for the Wild.

It stayed unbeaten so to speak and the Wild’s prospects, who fill the Houston Aeros to the brim, picked up five of a possible six points by scoring 14 goals in back-to-back-to-back nights.
 
The Aeros swept the Texas Stars in a home-and-home, then lost to the Milwaukee Admirals at home in overtime. Nick Palmieri, who scored three goals over the weekend, tied the game in the last minute to force overtime.
 
Remember, Palmieri, acquired in the Marek Zidlicky trade last season with New Jersey, is a Wild restricted free agent who signed an AHL contract before the season.
 
Seventeen skaters registered at least a point over the weekend, with Mikael Granlund scoring two goals and two assists in Saturday’s win over Texas. Also in that game, Darcy Kuemper returned to the nets after season-ending shoulder surgery last year. The former Western Hockey League Player of the Year and Canadian Hockey League Goalie of the Year stopped 24 of 27 shots for the victory.
 
Matt Hackett was in the cage for the other two games.
 
Also this past weekend, Marco Scandella had five assists, Kris Foucault scored twice, Jason Zucker and Brian Connelly had a goal and two assists each, Jonas Brodin had a goal and assist and Chad Rau and Johan Larsson had two assists each.
 
Zack Phillips also scored his first professional goal. Charlie Coyle scored his second.
 
So, all in all, a good weekend for the Aeros, who responded from losing their first two games opening weekend.
 
“The important thing for all these guys is how they’re playing and adapting to the pro game,” Aeros GM Jim Mill, the Wild’s assistant to the GM. “We’re a really young team. There will be ups and downs, but the most important thing is how the kids grow from this pro hockey experience.”
 
Zucker was injured Saturday. He sustained an upper-body injury, Mill said, and is seeing the doctor today in Houston. Mill hopes it isn’t serious. Brett Bulmer was scratched Sunday, and with such depth down there, Mill said there is a bit of a rotation “because we want everybody playing.”
 
Granlund, who scored four goals in the last preseason game at Oklahoma City, is tied for fourth in the AHL with seven points in five regular-season games. Granlund is the top-scoring rookie so far in the AHL. Scandella is tied for second in the AHL with six assists. Zucker is tied for 10th in the AHL with 18 shots.
 
In a Minnesota note, Minnetonka’s Jake Gardiner, who had a terrific rookie year for the Maple Leafs last season, leads the league with 21 shots and has two goals and four points for the Marlies.
 
The Aeros next play Friday at Oklahoma City, a team led by Oilers studs Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Justin Schultz. Schultz, who had the Wild as one of his finalists prior to leaving Wisconsin and signing with Edmonton, is off to a roaring start. The defenseman has four goals, six points and is plus-6 in four games.
 
When the Aeros traveled there in the preseason, Houston’s bus broke down on the long drive up. That at least led for some bonding and a first funny American League stories for a lot of the rooks.
 
-- Also, the Orlando Solar Bears, the Wild’s ECHL affiliate, is off to a 2-1-1 start. Sean Lorenz scored the shootout winner Saturday against the Florida Everblades for Orlando’s first home win since the 2001 IHL Turner Cup. Former Solar Bears captain and Wild coach Todd Richards was there for the opening festivities.
 
In Saturday’s win, Kyle Medvec also scored in the shootout. Medvec has a goal and three assists this season, Josh Caron scored also for the Solar Bears and Nick Petersen, on an AHL deal from the Wild, leads the team with nine points. Minnesota’s own John Curry has been in the cage in all four games.
 
-- In other Wild news, as I mentioned last week, it’s official: Captain Mikko Koivu has returned to Finland to play for his old team and the team he owns a piece of, TPS in Turku.
 
-- Also, remember, the Defending the Blue Line charity game is Sunday at 7 p.m. at Mariucci Arena. For information on tickets and for an updated list of players who have committed to playing, go to www.mygophersports.com and www.defendingtheblueline.org.
 

-------------------------------------------

In Gophers news, check out yesterday’s blog for two commitments from recruits. The Gophers split this past weekend at Michigan Tech, with Don Lucia winning his 600th game as a college hockey coach on Saturday. Lucia is the 10th coach to win 600 games, the ninth to do so exclusively with Division I schools.

That split cost the Gophers the top spot in both the USCHO.com and USAToday/USA Hockey Magazine poll. They fell to No. 2 and Boston College overtook them.
 
The Gophers play to host the U.S. Under-18 team in an exhibition Friday and host Canisius on Sunday at 1 p.m.
 
Here's the USA Today/USA Hockey poll, with points, first-place votes in parentheses, last week's ranking, record and weeks in the top 15:

1 Boston College, 477 (18) 3 2-1-0 4
2 University of Minnesota, 461 (11) 1 3-1-0 4
3 Miami University, 405 (3) 4 3-0-1 4
4 University of North Dakota, 387 2 1-1-0 4
5 University of Denver, 358 (1) 8 2-0-0 4
6 University of Michigan, 347 6 2-1-0 4
7 Cornell University, 269 5 0-0-0 4
8 Union College, 260 (1) 7 2-1-0 4
9 University of Notre Dame, 226 10 3-1-0 4
10 Western Michigan University, 185 12 3-1-0 4
11 University of New Hampshire, 176 NR 3-0-0 1
12 UMass Lowell, 165 9 1-1-1 4
13 Boston University, 89 11 1-1-0 4
14 University of Minnesota Duluth, 77 13 2-2-0 4
15 Northern Michigan University, 56 15 3-1-0 2
Others receiving votes: Colorado College, 35; Harvard University, 32; St. Lawrence University, 27; Northeastern University, 13; University of Nebraska-Omaha, 12; Quinnipiac University, 12; Ferris State University, 8; Minnesota State University, 2; United States Air Force Academy, 1.
 
In the big WCHA news of the day, Wisconsin freshman forward Nic Kerdiles said he'll stay with the Badgers and serve a 10-game suspension.  The second-round Anaheim Ducks choice can play Nov. 30.  Kerdiles was originally suspended for the season by the NCAA for improper contact with an agent, but had that suspension knocked down to 10 games on appeal.
 
-------------------------------------------
 
In lockout news, the sides reportedly talks yesterday, but no meetings have been scheduled yet. Remember, Wednesday is the deadline the NHL says an agreement must be reached, or an 82-game schedule cannot begin Nov. 2.
 
Last week, after the NHL rejected three proposals from the union, the union claimed the third was a 50-50 proposal immediately as long as owners honored all contracts. Players then took to Twitter and bashed the league for turning down such a deal. Donald Fehr admitted though at the presser that he never ran the numbers, and as you can see by the letter he wrote to the players that I have obtained, the third proposal is not quite what it was described as:
 
Breakdown of NHLPA Proposal: Oct. 19th Memo from Don Fehr
Friday October 19, 2012

Here is a brief summary of the three core-economic proposals we made yesterday. Each has the players’ share declining over the life of the agreement. Each of the proposals has substantial cost reductions – lower player salaries – that would be realized by the owners. However, we maintained our position that given the concessions made by the players in the last agreement, and the 7 years of record revenue which followed, there is no reason for the absolute amount of the players’ share to be reduced.
Under the owners’ most recent proposal – a 12.3% reduction in the players’ share – compensation is reduced by about $1.65 Billion over the 6 year agreement they propose, if HRR grows at only 5%. ( The owners say that future growth will only average 5%, even though that is well below the 7.2% average since the last lockout, much less the 10.2% and 9.6% of the last two seasons.) At 7.2% growth, the share falls by about nearly $1.80 Billion over that period. We have proposed a 5 year agreement. The NHL proposals over 5 years would reduce the players share by $1.34 Billion at 5% and $1.43 Billion at 7.2%.
We gave them three alternative proposals.
Option 1: This is a revision of a previous proposal. We would see a fixed player share the first three years of 1.92 Billion, 1.98 Billion and then 2.06 Billion. After that, the players share is frozen until revenues reached $4.12 Billion (that is, when 2.06 Billion is 50% of HRR). After revenues reach $4.12 Billion, the players share is 50% of HRR (plus a small increment if yearly growth exceeds the predicted 5% -- 57% of revenue above 5% and 61% of revenue above 7.2%).
Here is what this looks like at 5% growth:
   
Players
Players
Owner
 
 
HRR
Share ($)
Share (%)
Savings
Share Growth
2011/12
$ 3,303
$ 1,883
     
2012/13
$ 3,468
$ 1,920
55.4%
$ 57
2.0%
2013/14
$ 3,642
$ 1,980
54.4%
$ 96
3.1%
2014/15
$ 3,824
$ 2,060
53.9%
$ 119
4.0%
2015/16
$ 4,015
$ 2,060
51.3%
$ 228
0.0%
2016/17
$ 4,216
$ 2,108
50.0%
$ 295
2.3%
 
$ 19,164
$ 10,128
 
$ 796
 
At 7.2 % growth, salaries fall by more than $1.1 Billion.
       
Owner
 
 
HRR
Share ($)
Share (%)
Savings
Share Growth
2011/12
$ 3,303
$ 1,883
     
2012/13
$ 3,541
$ 1,920
54.2%
$ 98
2.0%
2013/14
$ 3,796
$ 1,980
52.2%
$ 184
3.1%
2014/15
$ 4,069
$ 2,060
50.6%
$ 259
4.0%
2015/16
$ 4,362
$ 2,205
50.6%
$ 281
7.1%
2016/17
$ 4,676
$ 2,370
50.7%
$ 295
7.5%
 
$ 20,444
$ 10,536
 
$ 1,117
 
Option 2: Option 2 is similar in its effects. Simply, the players share will grow each year by 24.7% of any HRR increase (down from the current 57%). If HRR growth is at the 5% rate the owners predict, then the players share falls to 50% in year 5. At 7.2% the share falls faster. (After revenues reach 4.216 Billion, the players would also receive the same small increment of yearly growth as in Option 1.)
At 5% growth, this proposal produces:
   
Players
Players
Owner
 
 
HRR
Share ($)
Share (%)
Savings
Share Growth
2011/12
$ 3,303
$ 1,883
     
2012/13
$ 3,468
$ 1,924
55.5%
$ 53
2.2%
2013/14
$ 3,642
$ 1,967
54.0%
$ 109
2.2%
2014/15
$ 3,824
$ 2,012
52.6%
$ 168
2.3%
2015/16
$ 4,015
$ 2,059
51.3%
$ 230
2.3%
2016/17
$ 4,216
$ 2,108
50.0%
$ 294
2.4%
 
$ 19,164
$ 10,069
 
$ 854
 
And if HRR grows at the historical rate of 7.2 %:
   
Players
Players
Owner
 
 
HRR
Share ($)
Share (%)
Savings
Share Growth
2011/12
$ 3,303
$ 1,883
     
2012/13
$ 3,541
$ 1,942
54.8%
$ 77
3.1%
2013/14
$ 3,796
$ 2,005
52.8%
$ 159
3.2%
2014/15
$ 4,069
$ 2,072
50.9%
$ 247
3.4%
2015/16
$ 4,362
$ 2,205
50.6%
$ 281
6.4%
2016/17
$ 4,676
$ 2,370
50.7%
$ 295
7.5%
 
$ 20,444
$ 10,594
 
$ 1,059
 
Option 3: This idea proceeds from an entirely different approach. We take two principles of this negotiation: the owners stated desire to reduce the players share to 50% of HRR, and the Players position that there is no reason to go backwards. This proposal bases that second principle on existing player contracts, not the players’ share. Here is how it works:
·         A reduction to 50% from 57% of HRR is a 12.3% cut (that is, 7/57), but the loss in an individual player’s salary would be about 13%. (This is because benefit costs do not fall and these come off the top.)
·         The owners honor all existing player contracts. We do this by dividing an existing contract, on a yearly basis, into two separate parts: the 13% and the remaining 87% . The 13% is paid to the player in any event, and it is not counted in the players share and is also off the cap.
·         The remaining 87% of existing contracts, plus all new contracts, go into the players’ share (plus all benefits). Thus constructed, the players share will become 50% of HRR, immediately.
·         This means that an individual player under an existing contract would receive the 13% segregated, plus a normal payment, subject to escrow, of 87% of his salary. A player with a new contract would have 100% of his salary subject to the 50/50 split. However, since the 13% of existing contracts are off the cap, this should create more cap space, which will be important as the cap will be squeezed.
·         Over time, the existing contracts expire, and the share will fall towards 50%. Below is a chart showing the anticipated savings, but these could be greater if there are a significant number of buyouts.
At the owners’ predicted 5% rate of growth:
       
Players
Players
Owner
 
"old"
13%
 
HRR
Share ($)
Share (%)
Savings
Share Growth
contracts
"old"
2011/12
$ 3,303
$ 1,883
     
1,776
231
2012/13
$ 3,468
$ 1,965
56.7%
$ 12
4.4%
1,246
162
2013/14
$ 3,642
$ 1,983
54.4%
$ 93
0.9%
746
97
2014/15
$ 3,824
$ 2,009
52.5%
$ 171
1.3%
503
65
2015/16
$ 4,015
$ 2,073
51.6%
$ 216
3.2%
286
37
2016/17
$ 4,216
$ 2,145
50.9%
$ 258
3.5%
     
$ 19,164
$ 10,174
 
$ 749
 
Our hope was that the owners would find one of these three approaches worthy of serious discussion, but the owners rejected these ideas in less than 15 minutes, and further advised the players that their last offer was, in essence, a take it or leave it offer, subject to “tweaks only”. That proposal contains, as you know, an immediate reduction in the share to 50%, a 2012-13 cap with a 51.9M mid-point, and, among other things, player contracting provisions including a change in the ELS, a reduction in salary arbitration eligibility, no UFA status until after 8 years or at age 28, no contract longer than 5 years, no contract may have a year to year variability of greater than 5%, and all money paid under NHL contracts to players playing in the minors or in Europe counts against the team cap (except for the first $105,000 per player).
Last, there is the “make whole” provision of their last offer. In short, player compensation which is below the players share total of last season would be “deferred” and paid out over time, except that the players share in subsequent years would be reduced by the amount of all such “make whole” payments. In other words, players’ salaries in later years are reduced to make these” make whole” payments. Players bear all of the “make whole” costs. At the end of yesterday’s meeting, Gary did say that the players were prepared to agree to all of the other parts of their offer (subject, perhaps, to “tweaks”) then I could call him about this issue.
Please call if you have questions or comments.
Regards.
Don
 

 

Two compassionate Wild fans, and the power of Facebook, create a special night for the Boogaards

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: May 16, 2011 - 8:59 AM

The Boogaard family has sat inside Xcel Energy Center many times. They've watched a gazillion games.

It's safe they knew just how many in Minnesota adored their son, Derek Boogaard. But in case just a little part of them had forgotten, more than 300 Wild fans so incredibly came down to the X tonight to show the Boogaards how much they were also wounded by this horrible loss. I left to go write after the formal part of the memorial was over, but I heard from many that there was a steady stream of fans still arriving well past 8 p.m. to pay their respects.

Derek Boogaard wasn't the best skater, he wasn't the best stick-handler (I can hear Boogaard now say, "Uhhh, Roose, I ... can't stick-handle"), he wasn't the best shooter.

But everybody loved Boogey. He was the underdog, the guy who had to work excruciatingly hard just to make it to the NHL, the guy who you could see playing in your beer league, the guy who excited every paying customer every single time with a good scrap.

As Wes Walz eloquently said tonight, "We needed Derek in the lineup to protect and take care of us. I can tell you a lot of guys on our bench grew an inch or two and were a lot braver when Derek was in the lineup."

Fans root for that. But there was obviously more. There was just something about Boogey -- that personality, that humor, that obvious humanity.

Fans picked up on that right away.

Chuck Fletcher and Walz talked a lot about that side of Boogaard at tonight's incredible memorial that was completely, utterly, 100 percent the creation of two young Wild fans I'll get more into in a moment.

Fletcher talked about how every single time he saw Boogaard walk by a line of kids, he'd stop to sign autographs, take pictures, chat. "Nothing was more important," Fletcher said.

Walz talked about how often Boogaard, without anybody knowing like TV cameras and reporters, would visit the Children's Hospital.

At that moment, a memory popped in my head.

In April 2009, about a week after GM Doug Risebrough was fired, Risebrough held his press availability at Tom Reid's. The presser ended, I walked outside to call my editor and discuss what was said and find out what my space was (how much I could write).

A black SUV pulls up to me, I look up and Boogaard's in the passenger seat. Sticking out the window is his entire right arm in what had to be the most uncomfortable contraption I've ever seen.

Boogaard had literally just gotten out of the operating room from offseason shoulder surgery. He didn't go home. He asked to be driven to Tom Reid's.

Boogaard asked me if I could do him a favor, go back inside and get Risebrough for him. Risebrough came out, I stepped away and you could just see how touched Risebrough was.

You see, Boogaard knew wholeheartedly that he owed his NHL career to Risebrough. He just wanted to tell Risebrough face-to-face, "Thank you, and I'm so sorry" -- regardless of the fact that he was in pain and woozy.

This was the real Boogaard, not the person who rearranged faces for a living. 

Fans showed their appreciation tonight during so many touching ways, I can't even begin to describe. It was just such a sad thing to see the torment Boogaard's family was going through. After all, Derek had passed away just 48 hours before.

But the family was so touched that Wild fans had organized this memorial, they felt it was incumbent upon them to show. It had to be therapeutic, too.

His mother, Joanne, one of the nicest people ever, began crying the second she saw how many fans were in the lobby of the X. She was joined by Derek's father, Len, brothers Aaron and Ryan, sister, Krysten, half-brother, Curtis, Fletcher, former Wild teammates Brent Burns, Andrew Brunette, Niklas Backstrom, Nick Schultz, Stephane Veilleux, Wes Walz and the entire Wild training staff. There were several other friends and family, including his friend and agent Tobin Wright and boxing and martial arts trainer, Jeremy Clark.

Many in the Wild’s front office and scouting staff also attended, as did former Wild assistant GM Tommy Thompson, former director of hockey operations Chris Snow and former scout Todd Woodcroft.

The marquee video boards on the sides of the outside of the arena had scrolling pictures of Boogaard, inside there was video of Boogaard on a reel, there were pictures and flowers and signs.

This was all the brainchild of 19-year-old Katie Haag of St. Francis and 18-year-old Shelby Leske of Hutchinson.

This started with a simple Facebook "event" the night Boogaard died. They didn't have permission. They didn't ask if the building was available. They just knew in their heart what they had to do, and they did it.

It grew and grew. I was even a little squeamish about whether or not I was supposed to promote it. After all, the Wild wasn't putting it on and the family didn't know about it and they were mourning.

But this morning, Ryan Boogaard texted me that the family was going, and I instantly got it up on our site.

"Derek’s what made me love the game," said Leske.

"When Shelby texted me that he died, my eyes instantly shot up to the picture of Boogaard on my wall. I'm just like, 'he's too young,'" Haag said, trying to catch her breath. "His career was just starting, and I know all about the charities he did. All those kids loved him so much.

"I had no idea this was going to end up this big at all, which I’m glad. I’m not embarrassed by it at all. I’m proud. We were walking outside looking at all the news crews, and we said, 'This happened from 18- and 19-year-old girls."

It was an amazing gift to the family. I got to talk to his family after the event for awhile, and they were so genuinely touched. 

I feel compelled to share with you the transcipt of what the family said tonight at the memorial. It began with Aaron, but the grief was too much. So Krysten began, and Ryan stepped in.

I can't even explain how touching a scene this was to witness:

 

Krysten: On behalf of our entire family and all of Derek’s teammates from this year and year’s past, we want to say thank you for taking the time to come here and honor a man who was a son, a brother, a friend and teammate.

We know that Derek would want to thank the Minnesota Wild for allowing us to have this service here. The Wild gave Derek his first chance in believing in him against all odds and that he could provide contribution to the team. We know he would thank them for that. Secondly, we know Derek would thank the New York Rangers for the care they gave to him, the respect they showed him and the opportunity they provided him. And to all his teammates on all his teams, we know it was Derek’s opinion that you thought he was your comfort. In reality, everyday you guys gave Derek a reason to come to work.

Above all else, Derek put other people ahead of himself. Selfless in his hockey and selfless in his personal life. Derek’s life has been dedicated to helping other people first. Where there is a teammate in trouble on or off the ice, where there was a friend in need of a sympathetic ear or someone he met on the street, Derek always made that situation a priority. Judging by how many people have written our family and judging by the impact that Derek has had on our lives and everyone here tonight, it is obvious how much he has meant to a lot of people.

Derek is known everywhere he goes as larger than life, but in his heart, he is an everyman. The phrase we have most often seen written lately by his colleagues across the country, the hockey world and from other people that have meant the most to him, the fans, Derek was known as a ‘teddy bear.’

Our family couldn’t agree more with this assessment, but what is a teddy bear? A teddy bear is first and foremost a source of comfort , and having heard from his teammates, we know how much a comfort Derek provided on the ice. Secondly a teddy bear is dependable. Derek was dependable to a fault. You could depend on him for anything you needed at any time. Your priority became his priority.

Ryan: Thirdly, teddy bears are usually big, and while he couldn’t admit it, cuddly. You wouldn’t think of Derek as cuddly, but there wasn’t a person in our lives that had more love to give and more love to receive. Lastly, teddy bears are loyal. They’re a constant reminder of what is good in our lives. Love, trust, friendship and selflessness. Teddy bears give but don’t ask in return, and this is unconditional. There are no demands in return. Derek was a teddy bear, and always will be our teddy bear.

We aren’t here to talk about Derek’s hockey career because his hockey was just a seasonal thing for us. It was just an aspect of what he did, who he was. We’re here because we have lost a son, a brother, a role model and a friend. Derek quietly in his community life, not wanting the attention usually associated with these efforts, preferred to just roll up his sleeves and get down to business much like his work on the ice. This is how we choose to remember him and ask that you do the same. We know we will never forget who Derek was and who he is. We know that every friend he made and every teammate he played with will say the same thing about Derek.

Derek’s legacy will live with us every day. And for any of you that knows him or who have met him, no matter how briefly, we know that you too will be touched by the light that was Derek. While this light was extinguished too early, it will continue to burn strong for all of us that were privileged enough to know him and love him.

(Above is a pic of Len Boogaard and Aaron Boogaard looking at the tributes as fans sing Amazing Grace during a spine-tingling moment)

I've gotten a lot of emails and tweets this week asking how Brent Burns and Cal Clutterbuck were doing. I didn't want to bother Burns tonight because he was visibly down in the dumps, but I did get to talk to Clutterbuck on the phone. He's home in Ontario.

Clutterbuck was one of Boogaard’s closest friends when he played for the Wild. He returned from the World Championships in Slovakia, turned on his phone and was hit with the horrifying news.

“To me, it still feels kind of like a story. It seems like it really didn’t happen,” Clutterbuck said. “When I first got there, I was a young rookie and I had few conversations with the guys. But I sat besides Boogey in the room and I did things with him outside of hockey.

“He was fun to talk to every day. Just nothing things. We talked about nothing, and that was the best part.”
 

For Saturday's funeral details, see the blog that's two below this one.

For the Boogaard Memorial article in Monday's newspaper and a photo gallery, click this link

Lastly, and I'm sorry this has gotten overshadowed, but the Houston Aeros are two wins from the Calder Cup Finals. Tonight, the Aeros beat Hamilton 3-2 to go up 2 games to 0. Robbie Earl, Marco Scandella and Colton Gillies scored goals. Jared Spurgeon had two assists. Matt Hackett made 27 saves. For information, click this link

Also, Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund today won a gold medal at the world championships during Finland's trouncing of Sweden. Martin Havlat and Marek Zidlicky won a bronze for the Czech's win over Russia.

Anyway, that was a longer blog than I anticipated. It's late. Good night everyone.

NHL Network to air Blackhawks parade, AHL Finals; Wild draft party

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: June 11, 2010 - 2:22 PM

From the NHL's news release, on Saturday at 11 a.m. CT, the NHL Network will broadcast WGN’s coverage in HD of today's Blackhawks Stanley Cup victory parade and rally from Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago.

It had been nearly 50 years since the Stanley Cup last graced the streets of Chicago. After a grueling, 82-game regular season and 22 playoff games, the rejuvenated and revitalized Blackhawks, led by captain
Jonathan Toews, carry the Stanley Cup to meet their fans.

On traditional double-decker buses, Blackhawks players, coaches, team management and their families salute over 2 million fans lined along Washington Blvd. and Michigan Ave. in downtown Chicago.

NHL Network also will broadcast live, the remaining games in the AHL Championship series -- the Calder Cup Finals -- between the Hershey Bears and the Texas Stars.

The AHL’s 74th championship series is currently tied at two wins apiece, with Game 5 set for tonight in Cedar Park, Texas. The Bears are the top affiliate of the Washington Capitals and the Stars are the top affiliate of the Dallas Stars.

NHL Network Schedule
Friday, June 11 Hershey at Texas, Game 5 8:30 pm ET (U.S.
only)
Saturday, June 12 Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup Parade noon ET
Monday, June 14 Texas at Hershey, Game 6 7:00 pm ET
Wednesday, June 16 Texas at Hershey, Game 7 (if necessary) 7:00 pm
ET
 

Also, from the Wild:

MINNESOTA WILD TO HOST DRAFT PART AT APERITIF RESTAURANT & BAR

SAINT PAUL/MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – The National Hockey League’s (NHL) Minnesota Wild today announced the team will hold a draft party in conjunction with the 2010 NHL Entry Draft at Aperitif Restaurant & Bar in Woodbury on Friday, June 25 from 6-9 p.m. The free event is open to the public and will include interviews with Wild celebrities, prize giveaways, drink specials and phone interviews with members of the Wild organization at the Entry Draft, all while fans watch the VERSUS broadcast of the first round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft from STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, Calif.

Wild radio host Kevin Falness and broadcaster Mike Greenlay will host the event and will be joined by Wild celebrities including former Wild player Wes Walz, Wild goalie coach Bob Mason and mascot Nordy. The WCCO Radio Promo Team will also be in attendance.

Richards comes home, kinda, sorta; Ovechkin "questionable" for tomorrow

Posted by: Michael Russo Updated: November 12, 2009 - 2:15 PM

Good afternoon from suddenly sunny Tampa, which is sooooooooo Florida. One minute it looks like you're about to get struck by lightning, the next minute you're about to get heat stroke.

I once got heat stroke on a golf course in South Florida. My grandparents got the call to get down to the clubhouse stat, but they weren't told what happened.

They were convinced my brother hit me over the head with a golf club.

Wild will go with the same lineup tonight. I asked Owen Nolan if he was on Martin Havlat's line the other night because I didn't cover the game: "No, he was on my line."

By the way, Havlat's a Lightning killer!

Coach Todd Richards said the club hasn't determined whether Niklas Backstrom or Josh Harding will start Friday in Washington. The decision will be made after tonight's game.

Harding hasn't started since Oct. 16, and I'd suspect he'd get the nod tomorrow unless the Wild somehow give up 10 shots tonight and Backstrom needs a rocking chair. The Wild will get into Washington in the wee hours of the morning Friday, and the Wild has an afternoon game Sunday in Raleigh.

So I'd think you'd give Backstrom the rest, but I could be wrong.

Kurtis Foster is indeed scratched tonight. Wes Walz bagged Foster and Matt Smaby, but when it was over, Walz looked like he had been bagged.

Paul Szczechura, whom I pray does nothing tonight so I don't have to spell that name on deadline, will be in the Lightning lineup. Sz, uh, Paul was called up because the Red Wings took Drew Miller off waivers. Sz, uh, Paul was leading Norfolk with 14 points in 14 games.

What else? Apparently Mikko Koivu and Bolts goalie Antero Niittymaki are good pals. Niitty is absolutely on fire right now, which throws a little intrigue into the eventual Finnish goalie situation for the Olympics. The odds-on favorites for No. 1 are Miiiiiiiiiikkkkkkkkkka Kiprusoff and Niklas Backstrom (whom I appreciate only has one 'i' and 'k' in his name), but remember, Niiiiiiiiitttttttttymakiiiiiii was the MVP of the 2006 Olympics.

(Between you and me only, Backstrom had to remind me of that fact because I can't remember yesterday).

How bout them Lightning? One of two teams in the NHL to have no regulation home losses. The other? The San Jose Sharks.

Chatted some more with Stephane Veilleux. He's one of six NHLers to be wearing the Messier helmet designed to prevent concussions. I'll write about that, and head shots in my Sunday column. There will eventually be at least a seventh NHLer to wear the Messier helmet, I am told. He plays for your Minnesota Wild.

His name is ....  Buy the paper Sunday 

Had an interesting conversation with Rick Tocchet, one of the great power forwards in NHL history, about head shots yesterday, and he thinks he's got the solution. It's .... Buy the paper Sunday.

Actually, not kidding. Read Sunday's coverage by the way because I think I'll have a real good Wild story that day, too.

How annoying are these smileys though, eh?

Lastly, and as usual I bury the lead, Richards is back in Florida. He played just up Interstate-4 in Orlando. For six years he played for the Solar Bears, captaining them for four. In 2001, Richards and Orlando won the last-ever Turner Cup in 2001, which he says is very special. Richards' stats in Orlando are off the hook, his first year scoring a career-high 19 goals and 73 points as a defenseman.

Most special about Orlando he said? Richards' two sons are Floridians.

OK, really lastly, Got an email from Washington Post's Tarik El-Bashir. Alex Ovechkin is officially questionable for tomorrow's game. Ovechkin, out with a shoulder injury, practiced today and said he wants to play against the Wild. But it's up to the team, and Tarik doesn't think he'll play. Caps are 3-1 without him.

I'll give you some more Caps information in Friday's advance box, but don't look for Jose Theodore to rediscover his '07 playoff magic tomorrow. He looks to be out for Semyon Varlamov, probably because he was spectacular in that 11-round shootout last night.

OK, must write. Bye Bye.

      

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