This is Michael Russo's 18th year covering the National Hockey League. He's covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005 following 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. Michael 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.
Also find Russo on Facebook.
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Center Zenon Konopka, the first free agent signed by the Wild during this summer's spending spree, is one of three players in New York today taking part in meetings between leadership of the NHL and the Players' Association.
With eight days to go before the league might lock out the players for the second time in eight years, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly met with NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr and his brother, Steve.
The talks were described as informal, but they met for two hours - longer than most official bargaining sessions -- and are expected to meet again today at 5:30 ET, Konopka confirmed via text.
Last Friday, negotiations between the two sides stalled as they work to try to come up with a new collective bargaining agreement by Sept. 15.
Wild training camp and 29 others won't open Sept. 21 as scheduled without one.
Among other things, the NHL is trying to decrease the share of hockey related revenue the players receive from 57 percent and want players to take reductions in salaries over a three-year window.
Konopka signed a two-year deal worth $925,000 a year July 1. He has 92 career fights, a .588 career faceoff winning percentage and is a popular teammate.
The other two players participating in today's meetings are Buffalo's Robyn Regehr and Winnipeg's Ron Hainsey.
The deaths of Wade Belak, Rick Rypien and Derek Boogaard have shocked the hockey world.
Belak died yesterday in an apparent suicide.
The NHLPA and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman released this statement today:
STATEMENT FROM NHL COMMISSIONER GARY BETTMAN
AND NHLPA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR DON FEHR
NEW YORK/TORONTO (September 1, 2011) -- The following statement was
released jointly today by Don Fehr, Executive Director of the National
Hockey League Players' Association, and Gary Bettman, Commissioner of the
National Hockey League:
"Everyone at the National Hockey League and the National Hockey
League Players’ Association is profoundly saddened by the loss, within a
matter of a few weeks, of three young men, each of whom was in the prime of
"While the circumstances of each case are unique, these tragic events
cannot be ignored. We are committed to examining, in detail, the factors
that may have contributed to these events, and to determining whether
concrete steps can be taken to enhance player welfare and minimize the
likelihood of such events taking place. Our organizations are committed to
a thorough evaluation of our existing assistance programs and practices and
will make immediate modifications and improvements to the extent they are
"It is important to ensure that every reasonable step and precaution
is taken to make NHL Players, and all members of the NHL family, aware of
the vast resources available to them when they are in need of assistance.
We want individuals to feel comfortable seeking help when they need help.
"NHL Clubs and our fans should know that every avenue will be
explored and every option pursued in the furtherance of this objective."
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."
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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