Obviously, the news of former New York Rangers forward Derek Boogaard’s passing was a heart wrenching headline to deal with this past week in the hockey world (unless you live in Sweden). There’s still no word yet on what exactly caused the death, but his brain was donated to medical specialists in Boston who will study it to determine if his “role” as a fighter in the NHL – and the resulting beating to his head – contributed to this untimely passing.
Boogaard was as much feared on the ice as he was respected off it. He was known to be the type of player who frequented charity events and went out of his way to spend time with fans. Being such a good guy, he developed a unique, devout fan base who cheered for him every time he was the ice. Some of these “Boogeymaniacs” staged a memorial service this past weekend at the Xcel Energy Center, home to the Minnesota Wild – Boogaard’s former team – with Boogaard’s family’s blessing to honor his memory.
Among those who attended the event was Boogaard’s former teammate, Wes Walz. While the service itself was often heartfelt and a bit sad, Walz offered some reprieve by describing his experiences with Boogaard as his teammate.
This week’s hockey quote of the week is a recap of everything Walz said. Enjoy –
Wes Walz started out by calling Boogaard “a true gentleman.” Going on, he explained that Boogaard was “soft spoken, kind hearted, and a gentle giant.” He then went on about Boogaard’s first training camp: “He was 21 years old, and there’s this guy skating around who is 6-8, 270 lbs, and a lot of us did not want to be on the ice with him. Guys were changing quicker, taking 15 second shifts and getting off the ice.”Here’s a great tribute video to Boogaard circulating on Youtube. Enjoy. Rest in peace, Derek.
Walz next went on to explain how Boogaard worked hard on his game, both in Houston, and during the summer, with the specific focus being on his skating, balance, and conditioning, so that if “fights went 45 seconds or a minute, he would always have the upper hand.” He explained that Boogaard was well aware of his role, and what he had to do to keep himself in the league.
Speaking about Boogaard’s fighting abilities, Walz said that there was a “stretch five or six years ago, we had seen nothing like it, we saw him knock about eight or nine guys out in a row. Usually you see one or two a year, but guys were dropping left and right.”
Walz added, “We loved having him on our bench. We were a small, quick team. We needed Derek in that lineup. I can tell you a lot guys on our bench grew an inch or two and were a lot braver when Derek was on the bench, which made our team better.”