It would be several weeks before we really know what happened to New York Rangers forward Derek Boogaard. Authorities have not immediately suspected foul play. The 6-foot-7 enforcer was found dead in his Minneapolis apartment by family Friday afternoon. New York Rangers broadcaster Joe Micheletti said Saturday on NHL On The Fly that he spoke with Boogaard Thursday via text and that he returned to Minneapolis to spend the weekend with his brothers. One brother is a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and was recently transferred to an area in Manitoba north of Minnesota.
Boogaard, 28, appeared in 22 games with the Rangers but missed most of the season with a concussion and a shoulder injury from a fight with Matt Carkner the night of December 9. One of the most feared fighters in the league, he accumulated a career total of 589 penalty minutes. A 2001 draft pick of the Minnesota Wild, he played his first five seasons from 2005-06 to 2009-10 in the Twin Cities where he scored two goals and had 12 assists during his time. His best season was his rookie campaign of 2005-06 where he recorded career highs in games played (65), goals (two), points (six), and penalty minutes (158). In his short time with the Rangers, he scored a goal, an assist, and 45 penalty minutes.
Similar to many deceased professional football players and fellow enforcer Bob Probert, the family of Boogaard said they will donate his brain to Boston University for head injury and concussion-related testing and research. Boston University also revealed that Probert suffered from the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Probert died of a heart attack last July at age 45 in Windsor, Ontario. Reggie Fleming, a 1960s enforcer who played before helmets became mandatory, also had CTE.
The New York Post also reported that Boogaard was in a substance abuse tratment program in the weeks leading to his death. The program he was receiving counseling was the NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse & Behavioral Health Program. The Post also reported that he was given permission by team management to leave the Rangers with a week to go in the regular season in order to receive counseling to help him deal with unspecified issues. The results of the autopsy will not be known for up to two weeks.
A gentile giant off the ice, the popular player was active in a number of charities during his NHL career. Last season he started “Boogaard’s Booguardians,” where he hosted military members and their families at all Rangers home games. He also was active with the Garden of Dreams Foundation as well as the Defending the Blue Line Foundation, a non-profit foundation that ensures children of military members are given the chance to play hockey.