by: Ron "Scoreboard: Johnston
(Photo: Regina Pats - 1999-2000)
Derek Boogaard finished his first season with the New York Rangers.
(Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The New York Rangers on Friday confirmed the death of enforcer Derek Boogaard.
The Rangers released a statement not long after a report from the Minneapolis Star Tribune indicated that Boogaard was found dead early Friday morning in his Minneapolis apartment. The cause of death was not immediately known.
He would have turned 29 next month.
"Derek was an extremely kind and caring individual," Rangers president and general manager Glen Sather said in a statement. "He was a very thoughtful person, who will be dearly missed by all those who knew him. We extend our deepest sympathies to his family, friends and teammates during this difficult time."
Boogaard had just completed his first season with the Rangers after signing as a free agent. He spent the first several seasons of his career with the Minnesota Wild, who drafted him in 2001.
The six-foot-seven forward earned a reputation as arguably the most fearsome fighter in the league. He scored three goals and 13 assists while racking up 589 penalty minutes in 277 career NHL games.
Born in Saskatoon, Boogaard played with Regina, Prince George and Medicine Hat while in the Western Hockey League.
Parts taken from the Regina Leader Post - Greg Harder:
"Obviously, you don't want to believe it,'' said Josh Harding, a fellow Regina product and a former teammate of Boogaard's with the NHL's Minnesota Wild. "It's something you can't prepare for — especially how young he is and how much of a life he had ahead of him.
"He's a gentle giant. If you just watched him on the ice, he had that mean, rough, tough background. But that wasn't him. He loved his teammates. He loved his family. He loved everybody. He didn't want any bad for anybody. He had your back with everything. It's a major loss to everybody that knew him. He's really going to be missed.''
Regina Pats director of scouting Todd Ripplinger also reacted with disbelief after the sad news surfaced Friday night.
"Is it true?'' Ripplinger said. "I'm in shock. I don't know what happened, but my prayers go out to his family.
"He was a great young man. I knew his family really well. They're good people.''
Boogaard spent the 2010-11 NHL season with the New York Rangers after spending the previous five big-league campaigns with the Wild. Before that, the 6-foot-7, 260-pound left winger played in the WHL with the Pats, Prince George Cougars and Medicine Hat Tigers.
The Pats, for whom Boogaard played five games during the 1999-2000 season, placed him on their protected list after Ripplinger watched him play bantam AA hockey one night in Melfort. Later that year, during a rather eventful scrimmage, Ripplinger aptly referred to the already-intimidating youngster as The Boogeyman.
"It caught on and everybody called him that,'' Ripplinger noted.
"I was at the camp where Boogey fought everybody at Pats camp, trying to make a name for himself,'' Harding added. "It only makes you realize how precious life is. I send my thoughts and prayers out to his family, his friends, his teammates — everybody that knew him — because he was an incredible guy.''